When you have an ostomy, going to bed isn’t quite as simple as it is for most people. There are a number of factors that you have to consider: What way should I lay? Is sleeping like this going to cause my bag to leak? Will I wake up if my bag gets full? Even a year out from surgery, these thoughts still go through my head fairly often.
And the truth is, I have leaks more often while I am sleeping then when I am awake, so I know it can be an issue for ostomates. In my experience, these are the things to take into account before hitting the sheets:
When you eat your last meal of the day. I try to be done eating any meal by 7:30 on normal weekdays when I’m in bed earlier. I would actually prefer to be done by 6:30, but that doesn’t always happen. If you eat too close to bedtime, you will find a very full bag in the morning or sometime in the middle of the night. Something I have realized recently is that, for me, it actually helps if I eat just a little something small about a half-hour before I go to bed. When you eat, it triggers your digestive system to continue moving things through, so eating a little something can help move some things out of your system before going to bed.
What you eat before bed. I realize this is going to be very different for different people, but I can tell you about my experience. I have issues with anything that will significantly thicken my output. For me, thick output + laying down = leak. Rice and nuts are the most difficult for me. I’m fine in small quantities, but eating a lot before bed usually doesn’t end well. Alcohol can also cause issues. Now, if I’m having a few drinks, I make sure that I drink at least the same amount of water as alcoholic drinks. Just a few weeks ago, I had two glasses of wine, but didn’t follow it up with water. My output was so thick that night that I ended up with a pretty bad leak. (And waking up in the middle of the night to change your bag after drinking the night before is not fun…)
How you lay when you’re sleeping. I am a stomach sleeper. Actually, I’m one of those weird mostly-on-your-stomach-but-one-leg-bent sleepers. I learned to get used to sleeping on my back because when I was dealing with active Crohn’s symptoms, it would hurt my stomach to lay any other way and I figured it would be more of the same with an ileostomy. But it actually hasn’t been as big of an issue has I had imagined. Since my surgery, I have become more of a side sleeper, but I still do sleep on my stomach sometimes, but I try to keep the pressure on the side away from my bag. There are times when I pay more attention, such as when I know I’ve eaten some things that I shouldn’t have, as I’ve listed above. In those times, I don’t lay on my stomach.
What you wear to bed. This one for me has been a non-issue. I don’t wear anything differently now than I did prior to surgery. I’ve always been a T-shirt and pants kind of girl and that hasn’t changed. I have heard of other ostomates wearing some sort of belt or band to bed to help keep the bag in place and to catch leaks, but personally, I haven’t found it necessary. If it’s a concern and you don’t mind the band, that’s an option you can try out.
Your bag filling in the middle of the night. Regardless of what or when you eat or how you sleep, your bag will fill up during the night. Especially those first few weeks after surgery, you have to keep an eye on it because it will fill up with a lot of gas. I would say that in the first couple of years after my surgery, more often that not, I would get up in the middle of the night to empty the bag. However, in more recent years, I have not had to do that as often. And thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with a bag explosion from getting too full, but I’ve definitely been close. There have been times when it has gotten so full that it starts pulling away from the skin and causes a leak. My body usually wakes me up when it starts getting full and then I can simply empty and go back to bed.
I realize that this is not how it goes for all ostomates, but this has been my experience. And while I haven’t had to change too much in my sleep habits, I am more aware of how I’m laying and what I’m eating, especially close to bedtime. I would encourage you to take note of when and what you eat and how that affects you overnight, as well as paying more attention to how you sleep.
What about you? Have you had a difference experience when sleeping? Is there anything you have found to help you get a good night sleep?