How To Sleep With A New Tattoo - Your Helpful Guide

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Like everything else you do following a new tattoo, even sleeping has a few Dos and Don’ts you have to adhere to. While in bed, you could unintentionally rub the tattoo on your bedsheets, or put pressure on your ink and interrupt the natural healing process, permanently ruining your new tattoo.

Have a look at our practical guide on sleeping with a new tattoo without damaging it. This will ensure that you not only get a comfortable night’s rest, but will also guarantee that you are not compromising the healing of your new tattoo.

Pre-Bed Routine

First and foremost, we recommend that if you got your tattoo late in the evening that you allow yourself time to remove the wrapping prior to heading into bed, unless your artist specifically told you that it can be left on through the night.

Some artists use antibacterial film that provides an optimal healing zone for your tattoo. Other films or medical covers actually prevent the tattoo from breathing and may cause further swelling or irritation to the wound.

If your tattoo artist hasn’t specifically told you to keep the film on overnight, then we recommend that it is removed prior to your first sleep after about four to six hours of wear. And we do not recommend re-wrapping your tattoo before bed. Your body heals fastest as night when you sleep, so it’s best to allow it the oxygen it needs to regrow vital skin cells.

Every night before bed, beginning with the first day of your new tattoo, you should take time to carefully wash your tattoo. This should include scrubbing your tattoo gently but thoroughly with antibacterial soap and then patting your tattoo dry (not rubbing) with fresh towels or paper towels.

How To Sleep With A New Tattoo

1. Use a spare clean sheet you don’t mind ruining

If you have a new tattoo, you should also consider changing your bed for fresh linens. This ensures that any dead skin cells, dust mites, and bacteria in your sheets are not transferring to your new tattoo and putting you at risk of infection.

Because your tattoo is a wound that may leak ink, blood, or plasma, you want to ensure you’re using sheets that you don’t mind ruining, as you may not be able to wash the stains out.

Some people recommend changing your bed sheets every day for the first week of healing, but that’s a little exaggerated in our opinion. So long as you are only using your bed for sleeping, are keeping on your side of the bed and not switching with a partner, and keeping animals out of the room for the first week, then you should be okay. If you are ever unsure, it doesn’t hurt to re-change the sheets.

After the first week of healing, when your tattoo begins to peel or form scars, you won’t have to worry about your bedsheets anymore. This is because your wound is growing a protective layer of skin that will act as a shield to bacteria.

Your tattoo will likely weep the most on the first day, and will continue for around three days, until it has sufficiently pushed out any excess ink, blood, and plasma to allow for skin cell regrowth.

2. Don’t sleep on your tattoo

It seems self-explanatory but sometimes it’s hard to help it, especially if your tattoo is placed on your “sleeping” side.

If you sleep on your new tattoo, you put pressure on it that could push out more ink from the wound, you may cause excessive bleeding due to the weight, or you could cause irritation through the pressure. You also risk having your wound pressed deeply within the sheets and being prevented from breathing, or having it dry and stick to the sheets.

Here are some tips for sleeping comfortably while tattooed:

  • If your tattoo is on the front of your body such as your chest or stomach, lie on your back and place pillows under your knees. This will encourage your body to be more “locked” in this position and helps relieve lower back pressure.
  • If your tattoo is on the back of your body, sleep on your belly by putting a pillow under your chest. This also raises your tattoo slightly which helps with healing.
  • If you know you’re going to be getting a tattoo on an arm or on your ribs that is on your “sleeping side”, purchase a long pillow ahead of time that will help stop you from turning over when sleeping.

The goal is to avoid your tattoo from getting stuck to any bedding overnight. But should that happen…

3. Don’t rip off the stuck sheet from your tattoo

Though it may happen accidentally, if upon waking you feel that your tattoo has dried against the bedsheet, do not rip it off of your tattoo. That will re-open your wound and could potentially tear away ink in the process.

The safest option, if possible, is to either bring the bedsheet with you to the washroom, or ask your partner to bring you a clean glass of lukewarm water, and to wet the tattoo until the sheet falls away from your skin. Don’t rush this process; allow the bedsheet to unstick on it’s own and don’t pull at it.

The same could be said about your pyjamas. Make sure you are wearing loose-fitting, fresh, and comfortable clothes to bed and should they get stuck to your new tattoo, use the same process for removal.

If you are truly worried about the bedsheet sticking to your tattoo during the night, you can also place a clean towel that leaves no fabric remnants underneath you, changing it over the first three or four nights.

4. Don’t let pets in the bedroom

We get it; we love our pets too, and they’re just like family. But pets bring with them a whole bunch of issues for your brand new tattoo.

For the first week, you should keep your pets out of the bedroom to ensure that pet hair, dander, microbes, bacteria, and mites don’t get into your new tattoo.

The other issue is that our pets are drawn to lick wounds as a way to heal and pacify them, including those of their human pack members. Your new tattoo may attract a nightly shower if your pet decides they want to help you clean your bloody abrasion, and this puts you at risk for infection.

5. Get 8 hours of sleep

Our bodies go through the most regeneration when we are at rest, and so it’s important that you combat nightly insomnia by trying to sleep after you get a new tattoo. A good night’s rest also helps promote our skin health and reduces stress; a tattoo is not only an irritant to our skin but also a stressor on our immune system which goes into overdrive trying to heal the wound. Eight hours is always recommended for healthy adults, and you should aim for this amount of sleep during your first week of your new tattoo.

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6. Elevate your tattoo

A new tattoo is essentially a wound or injury, and just as we elevate sprained ankles or cut fingers to reduce swelling, irritation, and bleeding, you should try to elevate your new tattoo using pillows or rolled-up towels. This is especially important in body parts that have lower circulation such as feet and hands. If it is possible or comfortable for you, consider elevating the tattooed area.

7. Don’t drink or smoke

Smoking constricts your blood vessels and also reduces your circulation; two dangerous things for a healing tattoo. Research has also shown that the tattoos of smokers heal slower than those of non-smokers.

It is also recommended that you drink a glass of water or decaffeinated tea before bed, rather than going for a glass of wine or a beer. Your skin can dehydrate at night and you want to combat that as you are healing. In addition, alcohol can thin your blood which will lower your body’s ability to bring valuable skin regenerating cells to the wounded area.

If you can kick both habits for a week, your new tattoo will be better for it.

8. Follow a thorough aftercare regimen

There is nothing that promotes quick healing (and more comfortable sleeping) than following a careful aftercare regimen that includes:

  • Washing with antibacterial soap, being sure to clear off any weeping plasma, blood, or ink
  • Patting the tattoo dry
  • Allowing the tattoo to weep for three or four days
  • Applying a moisturizer on the tattoo after the weeping stops
  • Keeping your hands off scabs, skin flakes, or the wound

When it comes to sleeping, you should wash directly before bed and directly after you wake up. And when it comes to an aftercare routine, we compiled a list of the Best Tattoo Aftercare Products - Our Favorites Reviewed.

9. Keep wipes nearby

If you wake up during the night and notice something about your tattoo that seems off, such as pieces of hair or fabric remnants stuck to it, or it simply feels tight or uncomfortable because you know you rolled onto it by accident, it helps to have something on your bedside table to do a quick wipe of your tattoo.

While you don’t want to over-wash your tattoo or scrub it too often in an anxiety-filled panic, keeping unscented baby wipes or tattoo wipes are a quick way to get rid of irritants you may notice during the night.

10. Keep your room cool

A cooler room temperature of between 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is an optimal sleeping temperature that actually encourages your body to fall asleep faster. It also ensures that you are not excessively sweating during the night, which could irritate your tattoo or cause your clothing to stick to your tattoo.

When Can I Sleep on My Tattoo Again?

After around one week, when your epidermis regrows and begins to form a protective layer over your tattoo, you no longer have to concern yourself with ruined sheets sticking to your tattoo, or the excessive vulnerability of your tattoo to bacteria, dirt, and grime. You should still avoid sleeping on your tattoo if possible to avoid rubbing or pulling at any skin or scabs during the night, but it will definitely become a more comfortable experience.

Our Final Thoughts

While it may be a little difficult to get comfortable sleeping the first few days after a new tattoo, and while you may lose a few bed sheets in the process, it’s absolutely worth taking extra caution to preserve the beauty of your tattoo and to speed up its healing time.

If sleeping on your new tattoo is a concern, you should discuss it with your artist who will be able to give you tips and tricks specific to your tattoo’s placement and your skin’s needs.

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