OstomyLife Community

Sleeping with an Ostomy Video

Laura Cox
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
08/28/15  2:38 PM PST

“While sleeping with an ostomy can be a little bit more difficult than one may anticipate, there are several tips and tricks that can get you much closer to a full night’s rest.”

Watch Laura Cox, Shield HealthCare’s Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist, explain how to get a good night’s rest while sleeping with an ileostomy or colostomy – or read the bulleted version below. Laura does not discuss urostomies specifically in this video, but urostomates may find some of her tips helpful. We do discuss urostomies in our Living with an Ostomy Guide. A night drainage system can be very helpful for urostomates. You can find more information about those systems and more tips for urostomates on this Urostomy Association page.

In this short video Laura takes us through different sleeping positions that may be more comfortable with an ostomy. She also discusses securing your ostomy pouch for a more comfortable sleep. Also in this video are pain reduction tips, tips on how to decrease output while sleeping with an ostomy, and how to avoid leaks while sleeping.

It’s extremely important to get a good amount of sleep, especially after surgery, because it speeds up the healing process. If you are still having trouble sleeping after trying these tips, contact your health care team, so they can assist you in getting a full night’s rest.

Securing the Ostomy Pouch

  • Wear a tighter shirt that holds the ostomy pouch close to your abdomen.
  • Tuck the ostomy pouch into pajama pants. Make sure the waistband isn’t too tight or the output will stay above the pant line and not fall to the bottom of the pouch.
  • Wear a bandeau or belly band around the abdomen.

Sleeping Position

  • If you sleep on your back, you don’t need to make any adjustments to sleeping position.
  • Sleeping on the side the stoma is on will also be okay. The mattress will support the ostomy pouch as it fills.
  • Sleeping on the opposite side from your stoma is fine too, you can just hold a pillow up against your abdomen or set your pouch on a pillow next to you so the weight as it fills does not wake you up.
  • If you are a stomach sleeper, you can modify by bending the leg on the side with your stoma. This creates some space underneath your abdomen that allows the ostomy pouchto fill.
  • Right after surgery, your stomach may be too sore to lie down. You can do a modified sitting up position while splinting your stomach with a pillow to ease the pain.

Other Pain Tips

  • Take whatever pain pills your surgeon/doctor prescribed to you.
  • Use a heating pad on the low setting (make sure to use one that automatically turns off after 1-3 hours – it can be dangerous for your skin and can also be a fire hazard to leave a heating pad on unattended all night).

Restroom Schedule at Night

  • You may find you have to empty frequently at night. As time goes on, your body will adjust to its new anatomy and you will wake up less.
  • Eat and hydrate well throughout the day. About 1-2 hours before bed, stop eating and drinking large amounts. This will help decrease output.
  • If you are still getting up frequently, ask your doctor if it’s okay to take Imodium or GasX before bed.

Avoiding Nighttime Leaks

  • Don’t let the pouch get overly full! If the weight of the pouch doesn’t wake you, set an alarm for every couple hours until you know about how frequently you have to get up.
  • If the output is very watery, thicken it with diet. If your output is too thick, thin it by hydrating more.
  • Change your pouch as frequently as your nurse/doctor suggests. The older the seal, the higher the chance of having a leak.

Other Sleeping Tips

  • Keep water and pain pills by your bed, just in case you wake up thirsty or in pain.
  • Use a night light so you can find your way to the restroom in the middle of the night.
  • Use a pillow or blanket to splint your stomach if you have abdominal pain.

We want to hear from you! What are your biggest sleep issues? How have you resolved them? What is the best tip you’ve received about sleeping with an ostomy?

For more information, see related articles and ostomy resources here:

Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
Dear Laura, I wear a two piece ostomy bag. I need help with concealing an ostomy bag. When I move around my shirt hikes up and the tip of the bag peeks out from under my shirt.
Hi Tom, I have a few suggestions that may help!
First, I'm wondering if a stealth belt would be a good option for you. This is a black belt that you can conveniently tuck your pouch...



  1. Shelley S.
    Posted September 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm PST

    Would you please have more videos and articles on urostomy? I am looking for more tips and techniques for coping with a retracted stoma.
    Thank you.

  2. Posted September 14, 2015 at 2:29 pm PST

    We absolutely will work on that! If you have a retracted stoma, ask your ostomy nurse about using a convex wafer. That may help you!

  3. Rachel Deroche
    Posted November 25, 2016 at 5:11 pm PST

    I think of all the videos I’ve watched in the last month preparing for my upcoming surgery, this one was the most helpful. Sleeping has been the number one issue on my mind because I switch positions about 100X throughout the night. Great information here!!

  4. Alfred Roberts
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 4:11 pm PST

    I have found that sleeping in my recliner works. I wake every2 hours to empty the pouch. I’ts not at all comfortable. I’m hoping that when I have more time since surgery ( only been 5 weeks ) . What bothers me the most is that I am so weak and not getting any stronger.

  5. Posted July 12, 2017 at 11:12 am PST

    Hi Alfred, I found that your hope is on track with what happens after surgery. The first 2-3 months are exhausting and difficult. As you find ways to slow down your output and your body gets used to your new anatomy many people find they sleep better and longer throughout the night. My surgeon really emphasized walking as often as I could to regain strength. I hope you start to feel better!

  6. Marty S.
    Posted May 29, 2018 at 10:45 am PST

    Please qualify your article. This is not tips for sleeping with an ostomy. It is tips for a colostomy or illeostomy. Many new people with urostomy get very confused about these articles. They try to follow the advise not knowing any better. Some of the things you suggested could be detrimental for a urostomy. Shelley S., you will rarely find any articles on urostomy on UOAA. I also have a retracted stoma. More than half are retracted. If you have an issue with leaking, you may want to get samples of convex from the manufacturer. If you aren’t having an issue, don’t change.

  7. Aimee Sharp
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 4:41 pm PST

    Hi Marty. Thank you for your comment. We have amended the article to let people know that Laura’s tips are primarily for ileostomates and colostomates. We appreciate the feedback, and thank you for providing your experience! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

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