Sleeping & recliners after open heart surgery?

It’s been so helpful to hear experiences from others, thank you all - having seen comments about difficulties sleeping / sleeping in recliners, I’d appreciate a bit more detail on this, please.

A bit about me - I’m Lisa, 50yrs (=mid-lifer!), and just got diagnosed in Nov with sinus venosus ASD (2cm, "severe” shunt) and a couple of strange veins (drainage into right instead of left atrium). These together mean I need open heart surgery, as catheter won’t solve the problem. Hopefully in next couple of months.

I’d appreciate hearing from previous patients:

(1) what was it that made sleeping difficult / uncomfortable ? If it was pain, what cause/ type & whereabouts in the body? Or was it something else, like depression, trying to avoid rolling onto your side or sternum, or medications?

(2) why did you find a recliner / sleeping surrounded by pillows helpful? Was it because it relaxed your muscles? Stopped you rolling? Helped your breathing?

(3) were there any other options that helped with sleeping?

I’m asking because firstly, I find it very hard to sleep reclining (never manage this on airplanes), and secondly, because the menopause is already making sleep difficult and I worry I will struggle to cope if not getting much sleep.

I don’t really want to take sleeping tablets, so I’m hoping for info that will help me prepare for the right problems / solutions.

Thank you all in advance :slight_smile: L

First, you can’t compare reclining in an airplane to reclining in your personal chair in your living room!

Second, you can get recliners that are manual and ones that are motor-driven, the motor driven ones offer a large range of recline positions. I have one that’s even oversized, it’s about the size of a twin bed when reclined, I can go from sitting to laying flat in it and anything in-between.

Third, a recliner supports your entire body with basically no pressure points, you can adjust it all. I’ve used mine to sleeping sitting up with bronchitis, shoulder reconstruction surgery recovery, and even a badly sprained ankle (kept it elevated).

I highly, highly, highly recommend owning a recliner.


Thanks azurelle.
I don’t necessarily mind getting a recliner, however I am keen to know what problem it’s solving for open heart surgery patients first, in case there is a different option that might work better for me.

(Can’t sleep in my mother’s lovely recliner, nor in my own bed if propped up, so it’s not just airplanes :slight_smile: thus hope to know the underlying issues before deciding)

Thanks for the recommendation ! Glad it’s worked so well for you, sounds like you’ve had a hard time health wise.

well, at least for a while, you’ll want to avoid any pressure on the sternum. I too, never thought I’d be able to sleep in a recliner. But even now, 8 years later, I sleep in a nice oversized recliner(like the one described by Axurelle above) for about 80% of the night.

Thank you Chromedome.
Presumably you’re not using the recliner due to still having trouble post surgery :slight_smile: at least I hope not after 8 years :))

Maybe I will find I need one and can sleep in one, I’ll try wedges and pillows first I think.

No pressure on sternum presumably means not lying on one’s belly at the very least - pls do correct me if that’s wrong.

Thank you!

you are correct. I just came to prefer that, mostly because of sinus issues and occasional apnea. You are correct as well in that lying on the stomach would put pressure, although, in my case, it was sleeping on my side (I was able to do that after 10 days or so) But then, realized I was still more comfortable reclined in a chair with my heart pillow :slight_smile:

Thank you!
I guess I’m starting to accept that I’ll have to wait & see what I’m like after the Op and then try to adapt, rather than my preference, which would be to pre-plan everything :blush:

What is your heart pillow like ?

The heart pillow I have is about a foot wide shaped like a heart (of course) It will be very helpful in supporting the sternum after the surgery by just holding it against the chest. For some reason, you will very likely never get rid of that pillow. I still have mine :slight_smile:


I didn’t have open heart surgery, but before my PFO closure (before we knew there was a hole) lying flat triggered episodes of TIAs and inability to breath.

I had a cord hanging down in my heart on right side that would flow through when Open and kick stand mine open.

After my first hospital stay, because they did not know what was wrong, I was sent home with orders to sleep 45 degrees.

After neck and shoulder surgery, they recommend to sleep elevated to help with transferring out of bed to prevent using muscles and straining that area.