Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Louise Carter
Getting a tattoo can be a physically and mentally intense experience. Unsurprisingly, it’s common for people to feel exhausted after a tattoo, even if the tag is relatively small.
The body’s reaction to pain after a tattoo is the leading cause of tiredness.
Having the skin punctured by a tattoo needle continually results in multiple adrenaline spikes, managed by the release of endorphins. This rotation of highs and lows exhausts the body.
How tired you feel depends on where you’re tattooed, the size of the design, and your pain tolerance.
If your choice of tattoo involves holding body parts in an unnatural position for hours, muscular aches and pains may also leave you tired.
Worrying about the discomfort of the tattoo experience, being concerned about whether permanent ink will meet your expectations, and regret after the event can leave you weary through stress.
The fatigue associated with inking is sometimes called “tattoo flu,” leading to a “tattoo hangover.”
If you get sufficient rest, remain well-hydrated, and eat sensibly after your appointment, the discomfort and exhaustion should pass within 48 hours.
Can You Feel Exhausted After Tattoo?
It’s normal to feel exhausted after a visit to the tattoo parlor. Trusting somebody to mark your body with ink permanently is a draining experience. Unsurprisingly, many people feel tired after even a tiny tattoo.
Many factors influence how tired you feel during and after the experience of being tattooed:
- How big is the tattoo? If the ink is on a large area, it’ll be more tiring.
- Which part of the body are you having tattooed? Different body parts cause a more intense reaction.
- How much do you trust your tattoo artist? Being inked by a stranger will likely cause more anxiety than being inked by a friend or regular artist.
- What is your pain threshold? Tattoos hurt, but people react to discomfort differently.
- Lifestyle choices immediately before and after the tattooing.
Expect some tiredness when getting a new tattoo, making plans for the immediate aftermath.
Why am I So Tired After a Tattoo?
If you wonder, “Why does getting a tattoo make me sleepy? ” here’s why:
Tattoo flu, or a tattoo hangover, is a common side effect of getting inked. In addition to lethargy and exhaustion, frequent tattoo hangover symptoms include the following.
- Mild fever and elevated body temperature.
- Sudden drops in temperature and chills.
- Muscular aches and pains.
- Dizziness and light-headedness.
Stomach upsets, including feelings of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Tattoo flu should subside organically within 48 hours, especially if you get plenty of rest and treat your complaints with traditional over-the-counter pain remedies.
If the symptoms last longer or you experience the following concerns, seek medical advice:
- Extremely high fever (above 103OF.)
- Pus or blood oozing from the site of the tattoo.
- Nasal congestion or running.
- Excessing redness, hives, or bumps (minor swelling is natural.)
These issues suggest you may have an allergic reaction to the tattoo. The New England Journal of Medicine said ink is often responsible, but you may have developed an infection or caught a virus.
Adrenaline And Endorphin Release
A tattoo artist will use a needle to puncture your skin and insert ink pigments into the dermis (the middle of 3 skin layers). The top layer is called the epidermis, while the bottom is the hypodermis.
Larger, more complex tattoos will hurt more than smaller, simple designs, but the part of the anatomy being tattooed will also influence your body’s reaction.
Thicker skin with more fat will feel less painful, while the closer you get to the bone, the more it’ll hurt.
Imprinting a needle onto the skin is unlike drawing on paper because the artist constantly punctures the skin. The body will react to this every time, releasing adrenaline to combat the pain-related stress.
When the body is flooded with adrenaline, it experiences a fight-or-flight response. Since you won’t be granted the opportunity to flee if you’re mid-tattoo, the body tense up and releases endorphins.
Endorphins temporarily numb the pain of a tattoo needle, but as per Neuropharmacology, they also act as sedatives. When the initial rush of endorphins expires, you’ll feel intense fatigue and sleepiness.
The intense, stabbing sensation of being prodded with needles isn’t the only pain associated with tattoos.
You may also need to contort your body into unusual positions to grant access to an artist, leading to stiffness and soreness in the aftermath.
A simple tattoo on the bicep or upper arm is easy to access.
However, a large tattoo across your back or shoulders may require you to bend, crouch, and contort yourself into unusual positions for prolonged periods.
Constant aches and pains will be emotionally exhausting, so you’ll also feel tired as your body fights to repair the damage done during your tattoo session.
Stress And Anxiety
Being tattooed isn’t just a physical process – it will also take a mental toll, especially if you are being inked for the first time. Common concerns include:
- Intense anticipation of the tattooing, including fear of the pain.
- Concerns about whether the tattoo will look as good as you hoped. Is the artist as skilled as you expected? Will the design match your skin tone and muscle mass?
- Concerns about complications post-tattoo, like infection and allergic reactions.
When you leave a tattoo parlor, you may have red, inflamed skin, so the design won’t look as you expected. This can lead to “tattoo regret” – a mentally taxing experience for something so permanent.
Discuss your concerns with somebody you trust before and after the tattoo experience, ensuring you feel psychologically ready for such a significant addition to your body.
Can I Sleep While Being Tattooed?
Sleeping through a tattoo session seems the simplest way to combat exhaustion in the aftermath, but you’ll need a high pain tolerance to doze off.
Unless the tattoo artist has a second job as an anesthetist, they won’t be qualified to numb you. Most tattoo artists will also prefer that a client is awake and alert during the inking process.
You may need to move, flex, and provide feedback as the artist works.
How Long Does a Tattoo Make You Tired?
Most people recover from the initial exhaustion of being tattooed within 2 days. Depending on the size and intensity of the inking, the process can take as long as 4 weeks.
Upon leaving a tattoo parlor, the body part you have inked will likely be wrapped in plastic or bandages. Listen carefully to your artist about when it is safe to remove these coverings and whether the tattoo should be washed and re-shielded.
Within 48 – 72 hours, initial pain and soreness should subside, as will the exhaustion associated with a tattoo hangover. You may still feel tired for up to a week while the tattoo heals.
As per the South Asian Journal of Cancer, your skin will peel as the cells damaged by the tattoo needle need to clear and regrow.
Check for skin inflammation or infection if you feel chronically tired for over a week.
Does Tattoo Removal Make You Tired?
If you regret your decision to get a tattoo or need to adjust or remove permanent ink from your body, you’ll need laser treatment. This can be just as exhausting as getting a tattoo in the first place.
When you undertake tattoo removal, the inks applied to your body are broken into tiny fragments. These are then absorbed into the bloodstream and flushed out of the body through urine or sweat.
The bigger the tattoo, the longer it takes. If your body reacts poorly to these ink fragments, you’ll experience symptoms similar to a tattoo hangover. As always, check for warning signs of toxicity.
Managing Tiredness When Getting Tattooed
You can minimize the exhaustion of tattooing before, during, and afterward. Give yourself the best chance of feeling good after a tattoo appointment by doing the following:
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before the tattoo appointment, and clear your schedule for at least 48 hours after. If an option, book time off work and avoid strenuous physical activity.
- Relax the body and mind before the process starts, ideally without meds. Avoid any chemical that thins the blood because this can cause excess bleeding during tattooing.
- Drink plenty of water so you’re hydrated before sitting in the tattoo artist’s chair, and sip water throughout the tattooing itself. Keep hydrated after the inking to keep your brain sharp.
- Ask for a break if you find the tattoo process intense and exhausting.
- Adopt the proper sleep posture and avoid leaning on your tattoo in bed.
Few people walk out of a tattoo parlor feeling their best physically and mentally, but the tiredness you experience after going under the needle should pass relatively quickly.