Finding a New Nightly Routine with an Ostomy
Everyone has a nighttime routine they follow before collapsing into bed at the end of the day. For some, the typical bedtime routine may include having a small snack or a cup of tea, brushing teeth, getting into comfy pajamas, reluctantly setting an alarm, and diving into bed.
But, for those living with an ostomy, we have a few extra steps we have to follow before snuggling in for the night. While in the beginning, getting used to these extra steps may seem frustrating and annoying, eventually they will become just another part of your routine.
Sleeping with an ostomy bag
The idea of getting decent sleep with an ostomy can seem like wishful thinking at the beginning of your journey. Between unexpected leaks and waking up every few hours to check and empty your bag, the thought of a restful night's sleep may seem impossible.
But, by following a few steps when preparing for bed, you can help improve the sleep you get.
Should you empty an ostomy bag before bed?
The answer is yes. First things first, immediately before bed, empty your bag. In addition to that, stop eating and drinking a few hours before going to bed. Eating and drinking directly before bed can cause your stoma to be more active overnight and will result in a full bag.
If you find that, regardless of what you do, your stoma is very active at night, you can try taking something like Imodium to slow down your output. If you find that your bag fills up with gas overnight, you can take something like Gas-X to reduce your gas production.
Preventing ostomy leaks during the night
No matter how many precautions you take, do not be surprised to find that your bag still gets full throughout the night. To prevent leaks, try not to let your bag get too full before emptying.
While you’re still getting accustomed to how your ostomy works and your new nightly routine, you can set an alarm (or two, depending on how active your stoma is) for the middle of the night to help you get up and go to the bathroom to empty before your bag gets too full.
Eventually, do not be surprised if you no longer need to set an alarm, but instead, wake up on your own to take care of your bag.
Comfortable clothes for sleeping with an ostomy
When getting ready for bed, it’s important to wear something that is not only comfortable but fits in a way that does not restrict your bag. Try to avoid clothes that cut off the flow of your output. Instead, opt for something that you can wear above your bag.
On the other hand, if sleeping in the buff was your ideal "sleeping attire" prior to your ostomy, now you must be conscious of what you wear to sleep. Rolling around without protecting your bag is a recipe for disaster.
To further secure your bag during the night, keeping it in place against your body when you move around, you may consider wearing an ostomy belt or wrap around your waist.
What is the best position for sleeping with an ostomy?
The best position to sleep in with an ostomy is on your side or your back. If you are a stomach sleeper, you may be safe at the beginning of the night, but as your bag continues to fill throughout the night, the more likely a leak is to occur.
If you are worried that you will not stay on your side during the night, you can always get a body pillow or a V-shaped pillow to prevent too much movement.
How to handle an ostomy leak in the middle of the night
Try as we might to desperately avoid this situation, there will come a time when you wake up to the dreaded discovery that your bag has leaked while you slept. Half asleep, you will realize that you are covered in a mess and inevitably have to stumble your way through a shower and bag change in the middle of the night.
Through groggy eyes, you will have to clean yourself off, change your bag, strip and change the sheets, and get yourself back to bed. The best thing you can do in this situation is to remain calm.
As badly as you want to cry or scream or curse, just take a deep breath (maybe mutter a few curse words to yourself) and deal with the situation.
Preparing for nighttime leaks
Panicking and getting upset, as completely justified as that is, will only make matters worse. I learned my lesson the hard way when I rushed through a change at 2 am and woke up 30 minutes later with another leak because I was in such a hurry the first time.
Keep a change of clothes, ostomy supplies, and spare sheets on hand to make the middle of the night changes a little easier to navigate. Another thing you can do to protect your mattress from the evidence of a leak is to use a mattress pad, as well as place a puppy potty training pad beneath your sheets.
Sweet dreams, fellow ostomates!
Will you take our In America survey to help others understand the true impact of Crohn's and UC?