Tattoo aftercare is crucial to ensuring that your ink looks how it should when it heals. Usually, caring for a tattoo is straightforward, but sleeping can be more difficult, depending on where the tattoo is located. Sleeping improperly when you have a new tattoo carries some risks.
Avoid sleeping with direct pressure on a new tattoo, even if this means changing your sleeping position for the first few nights. Keep the area clean and sterile to avoid infection, change your bedsheets, and don’t let pets sleep on your bed.
Some tattooists will recommend that you re-wrap new tattoos before going to bed. This protects the tattoo site from bacteria, loose fibers, and other contaminants.
When Can You Sleep on a New Tattoo?
You should not sleep on a new tattoo, but you can sleep the night you get a new tattoo. A good night’s sleep is recommended for healing wounds and tender skin.
However, take protective measures to prevent the already-raw skin from becoming torn or infected. A new tattoo is an open wound and must be treated accordingly, especially at bedtime.
How to sleep with a new tattoo is more about managing your environment and the tattoo.
Most tattooists will recommend that you sleep with your tattoo wrapped for the first few nights, as this will protect the area from bacteria and the accidental tearing of the healing skin.
If your tattoo artist recommends changing the protective film, clean the area with a tattoo foam soap and use a breathable tattoo film to recover it.
Change your sheets when you get a tattoo, and change them more regularly until it’s fully healed.
This will ensure that dead skin cells, oils, dirt, hair, pet dander, and other factors don’t get on your tattoo. These factors could lead to infection, especially if the sheets haven’t been cleaned regularly.
If you have pets, keep them out of your bed until the tattoo is healed. Although members of your family, domestic pets carry many germs, especially if they go outside.
Sleeping with your pet while you have an open wound increases the risk of bacterial infection. According to Current Dermatology, improper aftercare can lead to complications that require medical treatment. Also, they can affect the appearance of a tattoo.
This can be as minor as a mild infection that requires the wound to be cleaned and medicated. However, it can be as serious as the tattoo becoming gangrenous.
Should I Wrap My Tattoo at Night?
Wrapping a tattoo can be a contentious subject, but you should keep your tattoo wrapped for the first night due to how susceptible a new tattoo is to infection.
Also, new tattoos will ooze blood and plasma for the first 24-48 hours. This makes them wet and can lead to your sheets and clothing sticking to the tattoo.
Once the tattoo is uncovered, ensure it’s moisturized at regular intervals. When your tattoo is uncovered, you should use a non-perfumed, non-medicated moisturizer at least three times a day.
According to the Journal of Dermatology, this is a standard tattoo aftercare procedure. So, if your tattooist gives you more specific advice based on your situation, follow that guidance.
Most unscented moisturizers and lotions will be fine for your tattoo, but you should never apply products like Vaseline, Neosporin, Bacitracin, or Germolene to a new tattoo. They can suffocate the skin or otherwise irritate the tattoo and complicate healing.
After you’ve stopped wrapping your tattoo at night, you should clean it every night before bed and every morning just after you get up.
Furthermore, while your new tattoo is healing, you should avoid the following:
- Submerging it in water
- Exposing it to strong, direct sunlight for prolonged periods
- Shaving the area over and around the tattoo
When it comes to sleeping, it’s all about the position.
How To Go To Sleep with A New Tattoo
The average tattoo takes 2-3 weeks to heal fully. Sleeping with a new tattoo can be tough if it’s in a place where you usually place pressure while resting.
For example, people with tattoos on their shoulders, upper thighs, and backs often find it hard to sleep without resting on their new tattoo(s).
For the first four days after your new tattoo, you should take all precautions to avoid sleeping directly on it, even if it’s wrapped, because a new tattoo needs airflow and oxygen to heal well.
The wrap that the tattooist gives you is a specialist, breathable film. However, sleeping on your tattoo while resting will impair airflow, resulting in slower healing.
Using pillows to support your body can help you sleep in positions you usually find uncomfortable without losing sleep.
Avoid fluffy bedding with loose fibers, as this could cause issues for your tattoo as it heals.
Leg, Thigh, and Ankle Tattoos
Tattoos on your legs, thighs, ankles, and feet can be troublesome. When asleep, we move our legs frequently, so many people don’t sleep with their legs uncovered.
Keep Your Tattoo Wrapped Longer
According to Sleep Medicine, those with attention deficit and sleep disorders move their legs more frequently, which can adversely affect tattoo healing.
If you’re concerned about this, ask your tattooist if sleeping with your leg tattoo covered for an extra few days would be helpful.
No Blankets For A Few Nights
A second concern is that large leg tattoos often wrap around the leg, making it hard to find any place on that area of the leg that is not impacted.
In this case, it’s best to attempt sleeping with your legs uncovered for the first night or two until the tattoo stops oozing plasma.
Elevate Your Legs
Sleeping with your new tattoo elevated could help it to heal quicker and reduce the likelihood that you’ll smother it.
This is because elevating a wound encourages fluid to drain away from the wound, thereby minimizing swelling. Also, it’ll improve airflow and keep your new tattoo away from your sheets.
Forearm, Sleeve, and Bicep Tattoos
The best way to avoid affecting a new tattoo during sleep is to sleep on the opposite side of your body.
Minimize the likelihood of smothering or tearing the injured skin and ensure good airflow around your tattoo. If you have trouble sleeping on your side, there are options.
Getting a V-shaped pillow may take the strain away from your neck and shoulder, preventing you from rolling in the night. Also, sleeping with a pillow between your knees could make you more comfortable and prevent excessive movement.
Switching to a new position can be hard if you’re used to sleeping on your back. However, it’s important that you do, at least while the tattoo on your back is still raw.
For many people who sleep on their backs, moving to their stomachs may be more comfortable than trying to sleep on their shoulders. One benefit is sleeping on your stomach with the sheets pulled down to ensure your tattoo gets enough air.
Moving your pillows to support your neck and shoulders can make this more comfortable if you find it hard to sleep with your head turned. If this is unviable, sleeping on your shoulder should be OK.
Collarbone and Chest Tattoos
Chest and collarbone tattoos can be some of the most painful to get done, but they’re often the easiest to sleep with. That’s because so few people sleep directly on their stomachs. According to Nature and Science of Sleep, the average person spends less than 10% of their resting time on their stomach.
So, if you’ve got a tattoo on your chest, stomach, or collarbone, you’ll find it easier to sleep than those who got them elsewhere. If you sleep on your stomach, you may find switching to back sleeping more comfortable than sleeping on your side. If you find your neck uncomfortable, try changing your pillow.
If you have trouble with this, sleep in a slightly elevated position. If you can’t sleep on your back, sleeping on your side should be fine. Avoid pressing the sheets or a pillow against your new tattoo.
Will Sleeping on my Tattoo Ruin It?
Sleeping on your new tattoo for a few hours if you roll over at night is unlikely to ruin it. The risk of infection or injury is low if you have clean bedding that doesn’t shed fibers regularly.
The main signs of a bacterial infection in a new tattoo are:
- Areas of hard, raised tissue
- Abnormal shivering
If you have concerns about the state of a new tattoo, contact your tattooist for advice. If the tattoo shows signs of infection or you feel unwell, contact a medical professional.