Most hair procedures take about six hours, and patients are cleared to head home that same day with minimal discomfort. However, your arrival back home marks the start of the next chapter in your recovery, and one that requires some more active effort and potential difficulties along the way.
Sleeping, for example, is a challenge for many patients, as they want to remain rested while avoiding complications with their newly transplanted hair.
There’s no doubt that sleep is essential for everyone, including post-op hair transplant patients, so what’s the best way to handle this key part of the recovery equation?
Even with surgeons and clinic staff guidance, sleeping after a transplant isn’t always straightforward — any extra insight can help.
Let’s talk about the role of sleep in recovering from hair transplant surgery and how to stay well-rested amid discomfort and other limitations.
Before we get into the strategies to achieve deep sleep during the recovery stage, let’s first explain why sleep is vital to your hair transplant outcome.
First, sleep is when the body’s healing processes are in full swing, whether it’s rebuilding muscle after a workout, creating new skin cells (beauty sleep), or healing wounds that come from injury or intentional punctures and incisions that occur during surgery.
This explains why many patients feel tired following an invasive procedure, even if they have exerted little energy. The body is fully healing and requires extra nutrients, cellular output, and regenerative energy to bounce back.
The problem is that when recovering from a hair transplant, the affected donor and recipient areas – harvest zones at the rear of the scalp and new grafts on the top and front – are quite delicate and must avoid aggravation at all costs.
This leaves patients and doctors with a conundrum: how can you ensure quality sleep while keeping these areas clean, safe, and undisturbed for the best possible outcomes?
With experimentation and experience through the years, physicians now have a proven protocol that can help patients get the sleep they need. All while minimizing friction, accelerating the healing process, and getting the most from each graft.
Like all aspects of recovery from a hair transplant, the first 72 hours after returning home are the most challenging. This section will focus on getting enough sleep and remaining comfortable while protecting new grafts.
Preparation is everything, so take note and have a plan in place ahead of time for when you return home.
What does the ideal sleeping situation look like for hair transplant patients as they navigate this vital stage? It’s all about setting yourself up for success.
Rule number one: swelling is the enemy in the three days of post-op recovery, whether you’re awake, asleep, or somewhere between. Do whatever it takes to avoid a traditional horizontal position for sleeping, limiting the drainage from the area and preventing you from healing efficiently.
At the very most, allow yourself to come down to a 45-degree angle on the bed, using plenty of cushions and pillows for support. Better yet, make yourself comfortable in a recliner, which will allow you to control your angle and make no mistakes when you fall asleep.
This is the main challenge for most post-op patients as they endure the first 72-hour period, especially if they’re accustomed to sleeping on their stomachs or sides. However, with the rest of our tips and some useful distractions to keep you occupied, this initial stretch will fly by in a blur.
Patients undergoing hair transplant are advised to take time off work and other obligations for the first three days after surgery to limit their exertion and free up their sleep schedule.
It’s not ideal, but you should be comfortable sliding in and out of sleep for these first few days, even if it means derailing your usual sleep schedule.
Of course, you’ll want to get back into a healthy sleep routine as soon as you can, but a few naps here and there will keep you sane and allow for extra healing to occur in the meantime.
Remember, this is not the time to stress about work, responsibilities, or other things that may impede your sleep. Your priority is recovery and following the instructions as given, so when you can catch some zzzs here or there, do so.
Patients will want to minimize movement and exertion as they recover from the initial setbacks of surgery, so that means making life easy in every way.
Place all your necessities nearby, whether in bed, on the sofa, or in a recliner. This will help ensure you never miss taking any medication, applying ointments, keeping the area clean (without showering, of course), and handling all other tasks as needed.
Some patients will also want to use pain medications – prescription or otherwise – to help them sleep at certain hours of the day or night. As always, these must be used strategically and only as advised.
Don’t forget the importance of being gentle with the affected areas of the scalp when recovering, even when sleeping. Remember to not scratch or rub the sensitive areas to prevent any open wounds. The sensations of itching and irritation are signs of the healing process working and that you don’t want to disrupt the healing process.
Do your best to swap out sheets, pillows, cushions, and paper products as they become dirty over many hours of use. It won’t be pleasant, but it’s worth keeping a clean environment to combat bacteria buildup and make your experience calmer.
Try to switch out these materials every few hours and change into clean clothes, even if you can’t shower for a day or two. When you’re all healed up, you can take on the laundry and not worry about being sleepy or disoriented.
After three days, you can start sleeping at a lower angle and position yourself more naturally for sleep. But like any step of recovery post-surgery, you’ll want to get the green light from your physician and support staff.
“Better safe than sorry” is the name of the game when protecting your grafts and ensuring a smooth recovery. It may prove even more beneficial if you can wait a few extra days to sleep the way you want.
Recovering from a hair transplant isn’t always a simple process, but it’s one you need to get right to ensure satisfaction long term. Use this guide to your advantage and work with hair transplant experts like Dr. Jae Pak to follow best practices and get the best results.
Speak with Jae Pak, M.D. today!Request a Consultation