Last Updated on September 30, 2023 by Louise Carter
Tattoo aftercare ensures your new ink looks how it should when it fully heals.
Usually, caring for a tattoo is straightforward, but sleeping can be tricky, depending on where it’s located. Sleeping improperly when you have a new tattoo carries a degree of risk.
Avoid sleeping with pressure on a new tattoo by changing your sleep position for a few nights. Keep the area sterile to avoid infection, change your bedsheets, and don’t let pets sleep on the bed.
Some tattooists recommend that you re-wrap new tattoos before going to bed. That protects the tattoo site from bacteria, loose fibers, and other contaminants.
When Can You Sleep on A New Tattoo?
You shouldn’t sleep on a new tattoo, but you can go to sleep the night you get a tattoo. A good night’s sleep is recommended because getting a new tattoo is an exhausting experience.
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 as such, especially at bedtime.
Most tattooists will recommend that you sleep with the tattoo wrapped for the first few nights to protect the area from bacteria and damage to the healing skin.
If a 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 the sheets when you get a tattoo, and do so more frequently until the area is fully healed.
This will ensure that dead skin cells, oils, dirt, hair, pet dander, and other factors don’t get on the tattoo. These factors could lead to infection, especially if the sheets haven’t been cleaned regularly.
Keep pets off your bed until the tattoo is healed. Although members of the family, domestic pets carry many germs and bacteria, especially if they venture outside.
Sleeping with a dog or cat 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 overall appearance of a tattoo.
This can be as minor as a mild infection that requires the wound to be cleaned and medicated. Sometimes, it can be as serious as the tattoo becoming gangrenous.
Should I Wrap My Tattoo at Night?
Wrapping a tattoo is contentious, but you should keep it wrapped for the first night due to its susceptibility 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 the tattoo is uncovered, use a non-perfumed, non-medicated moisturizer at least 3 times a day.
According to the Journal of Dermatology, this is a standard tattoo aftercare procedure.
Most unscented moisturizers and lotions will be okay for a tattoo, but never apply products like Vaseline, Neosporin, Bacitracin, or Germolene to a new tattoo.
These can suffocate the skin or otherwise irritate the tattoo, complicating the healing process.
After you’ve stopped wrapping your tattoo at night, clean it every night before bed and every morning just after you get up. Furthermore, while your new tattoo is healing, 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, the position is vitally important.
How To Go To Sleep with A New Tattoo
The average tattoo takes 2-3 weeks to fully heal. Sleeping with a new tattoo can be tough if it’s in a position where you usually place pressure while resting.
For example, people with tattoos on their shoulders, upper thighs, and backs often find sleeping difficult without resting on their new tattoo(s).
For the first 4 days after your new tattoo, take 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 the tattooist gives you is a specialist, breathable film. However, sleeping on a 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.
Leg, Thigh, and Ankle Tattoos
Tattoos on legs, thighs, ankles, and feet can be more troublesome. We move our legs frequently when asleep, 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, adversely affecting tattoo healing.
If you’re concerned about this, ask the tattooist if sleeping with your leg tattoo covered for an extra few days would be beneficial.
No Blankets for A Few Nights
A second concern is that large leg tattoos often wrap around the leg, making it hard to find a place on that area of the leg that isn’t impacted.
In this case, it’s sensible to attempt sleeping with your legs uncovered for the first night or two until the tattoo stops oozing plasma.
Elevate The Legs
Sleeping with a new tattoo elevated could help it heal quicker.
Elevating a wound encourages fluid to drain away from the wound, thereby minimizing swelling. Also, it’ll improve airflow and keep the 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 the tattoo. If you have trouble sleeping on your side, there are options.
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 prevent excessive movement.
Switching to a new position can be difficult if you’re used to sleeping on your back.
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 the 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 is okay.
Collarbone and Chest Tattoos
Chest and collarbone tattoos can be 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.
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 is okay. Avoid pressing the sheets or a pillow against your new tattoo.
Will Sleeping on My Tattoo Ruin It?
Sleeping on a 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.
The main signs of a bacterial infection in a new tattoo include the following:
- Areas of hard, raised tissue.
- Abnormal shivering.
If you have concerns about the state of a new tattoo, contact the tattooist for their opinion. If the tattoo shows signs of infection or you feel physically unwell, contact a medical doctor.