Sleeping is different for everyone and is based on personal preference in many different areas including:

  • What time to be done eating before bedtime.
  • How often you get up in the middle of the night (if at all).
  • What position to sleep in.
  • What kind of pajamas work best for you.
What you eat does not affect your ostomy in this instance so enjoy dinner at whatever time you like! However, your liquid intake will affect your output.

People with urostomies can use night drainage bags to eliminate the need to get up to empty in the middle of the night. These night drainage bags hook onto the bottom of your pouch.

A trick for making sure your night drainage bag drains is to connect it while you still have a little urine in your urostomy pouch. Doing this allows the urine to flow down the tube as you hook it up, forcing the air from the tube to go into the night drainage bag. This keeps your ostomy pouch empty through the night and encourages the output to go into the night drainage bag.

If you use reusable night drainage bags, it’s really important to wash them thoroughly between uses and use a new one each week. You can also buy disposable night drainage bags that are one time use.

If anyone with a urostomy has more information or tips about sleeping with a urostomy, I would love to add more information to this whole section.

Everyone’s mouth-to-pouch transit time is a little different which leads to a lot of different opinions about when the best time to finish eating for the night is. Some people suggest eating no later than 5pm in order to avoid waking up to empty in the middle of the night. Other people can eat any time they want and not have an issue. Another trick is to eat a small snack a little before you’re ready to go to bed, as when you eat, it jumpstarts your digestion and you’ll likely have some output to empty before you go to bed so you can sleep longer without your ostomy pouch filling up.

Getting up in the middle of the night varies a lot too. Many people’s bodies adjust and wake them up as their pouch is getting full so they can get up an empty. It’s good to listen to your body and get up to empty when you wake up even though you might be really tired and not feel like there’s that much output in your pouch. From personal experience, I have been very thankful that I got up to empty in the middle of the night despite having little output in my pouch, because I’ve woken up a few hours later with a ton of output and would likely have had a leak.

Some people get leaks from having really liquid output that breaks down the barrier faster or fills up the pouch fast. Other people get leaks from having really thick output that “pancakes” and doesn’t fall to the bottom of the pouch, and instead makes it’s way in between your baseplate and skin. In general, the consensus is that leaks are more likely to happen when you sleep on your stomach or back.

Having an ostomy does not affect what position you can sleep in, however many people find it more comfortable to sleep on their sides and/or backs. Sleeping on your stomach can put you at risk for a leak, but is totally okay if your ostomy allows it. It’s recommended that you wait until your inflammation is down and your ostomy is healed before you sleep on your stomach, but after that point it won’t cause any harm to the stoma itself. Some people put a pillow next to them to support the pouch and their leg if they’re sleeping on the side opposite of their stoma.

You can wear whatever you want to bed. Some people prefer to wear high waisted pajama bottoms or some underwear to tuck the pouch into, keeping it close to the body. Other people don’t have that concern and find themselves just fine sleeping in the nude or with their pouch out of their clothes. The only really foreseeable benefit to having some sort of really lose wrap holding your pouch close to your body would be that it would prevent the pouch from folding over on itself leaving less room for your output.

Experiment until you find is most comfortable for you!

Here’s the progression of positions I went through after surgery, as I became more comfortable with my ostomy.

Immediately after surgery and when I got home, I started sleeping propped up so I was almost sitting. I had a fear that my output wouldn’t fall to the bottom of the pouch and felt this position would encourage it to do so better. It was also more comfortable right after surgery, as my abdomen was really sore and it was uncomfortable for me to lay flat.

As I became more comfortable with my ostomy, and my abs healed a little, I started laying on my side (the one my ostomy is on), but I still kept myself kind of propped up. The pillow props decreased to where I was sleeping on my ostomy side with just one pillow for my head. At this time, I also used a pillow on either side of me to help keep me on my side. I was worried about rolling onto my stomach and not quite sure if sleeping on my back would be okay. Despite the pillow barrier, I woke up on my back occasionally and it was fine. I used my front pillow barrier as a pouch barrier too, keeping it close to me so my pouch wouldn’t fold over. It came in handy as a leg support, because it’s much more comfortable to sleep on my side with my top leg bent slightly.

Fast forward a little more and I still like to sleep on my side spooning a pillow, though I don’t use a pillow behind me for support anymore. I don’t really like sleeping on my back and have always struggled to fall asleep in that position, but I still wake up there on occasion. For sleeping through the night, I don’t sleep on my stomach, though I have fallen asleep on my stomach for a short nap and been just fine.

My pajama preference is high waisted shorts or pajamas. I like the mental security they provide, keeping my pouch close. Most nights I get up once to empty. I usually set an alarm just to be safe, mostly because I tend to eat later in the evening and prefer to wake up once and empty than risk waking up in a mess. Sometimes I wake up on my own, before my alarm. Othertimes, I sleep through my alarm completely and am just fine.