Sleeping with an Ostomy Video

Laura Cox, LPC
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?

Want to watch this video with subtitles? You can find that option when you watch this video on YouTube.

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

Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
Hey Laura, I’m a new ostomate and just got the clearance from my doctor to resume a regular diet. Any tips for things I should watch out for?
Hi Susan, Excellent question!
I would say there are three important things you can do to reduce your risk of problems when returning to a more normal diet...

Recent OstomyLife


  1. 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. 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!!

  3. 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.

    1. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. 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

  5. I just had my surgery 8 weeks ago and I’m really having trouble adapting to this. I was not at all prepared for this . I change my bag twice a week and after I put the new one on I get odour for hours. I’ve checked for leaks by putting water in and everything seems good but I cannot get the odour to stop. After 5 or 6 hours it goes away. This as been very frustrating and is causing me not to want to go out where anyone is. Can someone please suggest a solution.

    1. Hi Bonnie. Thank you for your comment. Odor can be an issue for many ostomates. Laura has an article about odor management with an ostomy. This subject has also come up a couple of different times recently on our Facebook page — links here and here. We hope you find those suggestions helpful. Best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  6. I find that I have to empty approximately every hour to hour and a half. Needless to say this is too much interruption for sleeping. I found that by using a “Bard” in-flux bag, 2000 ml., the kind you can hang and has a empting tube at the bottom with a shut off, and attaching a five foot tubing, I can sleep all night without emptying. I use a velcro strap to hold it against my leg and to keep it from pulling. I empty the bag in the morning rinsing it out with hot hot water. Once a week I clean it inside with vinegar and water. Every couple months I change to a new bag.

  7. Reading this article, I feel both blessed and compassion for my fellow Ostomets. I got my colonoscopy at age 60. I also have a sleep disorder and have violent episodes during my sleep. Despite this, except for the very beginning, I never have to empty during the night, or had a problem with leakage. Usually, I have very little output during the night and get a week to 10 days use from a pouch. I guess that my body has adapted. I sleep in every position, even on my stomach, though I usually lift my knee on one side. I ALWAYS wear a belly band! I did not in the beginning and could not understand how anyone could deal with a loose pouch! I mount my bag horizontally, and while this cuts the capacity, I do not have problems with my belt grabbing the pouch and ripping it off my body! This also makes work and sex easier and more pleasant for my wife. I have recovered most of my strength, but I was very athletic before the surgery. I am afraid of sit-ups as my surgery did not go well and I suffered hernias, front and rear! But since pelvic reconstruction, and the OK of my surgeons, I am up to a near 3 minute plank. I am also back up to 54 push-ups and loaded 7 tons of railrode ties and then unloaded them a few weeks ago. I just finished clearing a 1/2 wooded lot pretty much by myself. I am determined, God willing, to be the best version of myself! Some of you may not be so blessed but my point is that these things are possible with a ostomy, and you should discover your own limits! Sorry, this was a lot, but outside of some medical people I got very little training with my Ostomy. Even my Wound Nurse, while kind, was very little help. It has been 3 years, and I would encourage everyone to explore and push their own limits! God bless you all!

    1. Hi Matthew. So, if you are already wearing an adult diaper for incontinence, it shouldn’t be a problem to continuing wearing it with your ostomy bag. People wear ostomy bags with underwear without an issue, so you should be able to find a way to wear the bag over your diaper. If you’re asking if the adult diaper can be back-up protection about leaks, that isn’t something we’d recommend. Adult diapers aren’t created to absorb stool (or urine really) in that section of the diaper. And pouching systems are designed to be discrete and, with a properly fitting system, additional protection is not necessary. If you’re worried about leaks from your ostomy pouch, we would recommend checking out our article about leaks. We hope that helps, and best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  8. Is there a trick to prevent pancaking when you sleep? My issue is when I sleep my stool pancakes around the flange and filter and cause leakage. I don’t have that problem standing or sitting up as gravity helps push the stool toward the bottom of the bag yet I am still struggling while I am laying down. Is there a way to prevent pancaking when you lay on your back?

    1. Hi Phil. Thank you for reaching out with your question. To get you the best advice, we asked the Ostomy Facebook community if they had any suggestions.
      Here is what thy said:
      1. Leave some extra air in the bag to prevent pancaking.
      2. The pancaking you are experienced may be caused by something you are eating. Try to pay attention to what you eat and when pancaking happens or is worse.
      3. Block the filter with a sticker or piece of tape. This should prevent a vacuum seal to your stoma.
      4. Drink water before bed.
      5. Lubricate around the stoma.

      To follow along and read the conversation please click here. We hope this helps and wish you the best!

      -Sarah, Shield HealthCare

  9. Hello, I’ve watched the video on sleeping positions, but am still struggling. I find sleeping on the side with my bag uncomfortable but I’m only a week after my op. My main concern is I’m scared of blocking the stoma and causing a blockage. I feel like I’m squashing it if I lie on that side with the bag. Any tips would be great. Thank you

  10. my mom just had a ostomy surgrey, she manages the pain well her only problem is sleeping, she can never get comfortable at all, laying on her back to long hurts she cant lay on her stomach because the staples, i tried to put a small pillow to support her back but that was very uncomfortable does anyone have tips

  11. Hi, I am having constant accidents in the night with my stoma bag detaching. I have a large parastomal hernia, I am currently waiting to see my surgeon. My problem is when I roll over in bed onto my left side despite placing a pillow in my back. Is this due to the hernia? I have ruined so much bedding & 2 mattresses. Thank you

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