How Should I Sleep With a Sprained Ankle?

How Should I Sleep With a Sprained Ankle?

An ankle sprain is a common cause of foot discomfort affecting almost 2 in every 1000 adults in the U.S. The injury is usually minor and heals with time, but as it affects your foot, the condition keeps you from moving freely. 

It results from abnormal twisting and straining of the foot ligaments, leading to swelling and inflammation of the ankle region. This type of injury is common in sports athletics.

In most cases, a sprained ankle is sore and painful to touch. Doctors universally advise patients to take maximum rest, but falling asleep comfortably with the condition can often be troublesome. This article will discuss how to sleep with a sprained ankle and speed up your road to recovery.

How to Sleep With a Sprained Ankle? 

There are several simple-yet-effective strategies to have a comfortable sleep with a sprained ankle. To begin with, the RICE strategy, i.e., rest, ice application, compression, and elevation, have shown to be effective in alleviating ankle pain.


The primary and most crucial step in healing a twisted ankle is to adequately rest your body and avoid activities that put unnecessary pressure on the ankle joint in the first few days. You should take a few days off from work if possible to limit movement of the leg and foot muscles, allowing for a better and speedy recovery. 


Cryotherapy (ice/cold application) is an effective treatment protocol for managing acute sports injuries. You can reduce inflammation and swelling of the affected joint site by applying ice multiple times a day every few hours for the best results. 

Cold therapy has superior effects when paired with compression and elevation. You can use an ice pack or a pack of frozen vegetables for it. You can place a cold pack beneath the foot when ready to sleep. Cold application to the elevated foot can have better results.

However, be careful not to use too cold (painfully cold) packs that can cause burns. 

Compression Bandages/Wraps

Compression is a potent way of reducing inflammation and edema induced by ankle sprains. Different compression bandages and wraps are now available that you can apply to achieve pain relief. 

Studies suggest that compression braces are effective with no significant side effects. However, you have to be cautious while using these bandages. You must wrap a tensor bandage around the affected foot for a limited period. 

Thus, it is crucial not to keep it on while sleeping. That is because prolonged compression can compromise the blood circulation in the foot and lead to discomfort and potential further complications. Applying bandages or wraps that are too tight for very long manifest as cold and tingly feelings in the foot.

So, remember to remove the compression bandage before going to sleep.

Injured Foot wrapped in ACE bandage.

Elevate the Foot 

The most straightforward answer to the question “how to sleep with a sprained ankle” is to elevate your affected foot. Studies show that elevation of the foot lowers the fluid volume in the ankle for a short time, about five minutes. Therefore, a more extended period of elevation will reduce the edema (fluid accumulation) and bring pain relief. 

Researchers have rigorously tested the effects of different elevation levels in ankle sprain patients. An authentic study revealed that a 60-degree limb elevation is the most effective in reducing swelling around the ankle.

Now the question arises how to elevate a sprained ankle (foot)? Choosing the right pillow and sleeping position can be tricky. 

The easiest and most comfortable way to sleep with an elevated foot is on your back. You might sleep on your side too, but keep in mind to elevate the affected leg to push the accumulated blood from the ankle back to it.

You will need pillows or cushions for foot elevation. Just place a soft pillow under the foot to put the aching foot higher from the rest of the body. You may add a pillow or two under the sprained ankle to assist fluid drainage. 

If you feel uncomfortable with foot pillows, you can add them under the knees. This step elevates the leg as a whole and removes isolated pressure on the painful ankle. 

Side sleepers are advised to sleep on the side opposite the sprain (to prevent pressure). Placing a pillow between the ankles is a practical step. You can also add a pillow between the knees to elevate the leg. A thicker pillow is capable of keeping its shape and position; thus, it is preferred over lean ones. 

Travel pillows can come in handy in such painful conditions too. A curved pillow has good application in elevating the sprained foot. Just place the curved side of the pillow up and rest your foot inside the pillow's U-shape. This benefits keeping your foot elevated even if you roll to your side during sleep. 

Avoid sleeping on your stomach until the acute phase lasts. It is almost impossible to elevate the foot in this sleeping position. 

How Long to Heal a Sprained Ankle? 

The severity of the sprain and the age of the patient are the main factors to have an impact on healing and repair time. There are three grades of ankle sprains. Grade 1 is mild, grade 2 is moderate, and grade 3 is severe. Generally, a light sprain usually takes a couple of weeks to heal. 

However, major ankle sprains may take longer to recover. A severely sprained ankle may take six to eight weeks to heal. The best way to speed up the healing is to get proper sleep at night. 

Sleep plays a pivotal role in the recovery process. Lack of quality sleep can significantly hinder your muscle repair, as during this time, the body secretes the growth hormone for tissue repair. 

Other Simple Remedies to Manage Sprained Ankle 

If you are still wondering how to sleep with a sprained ankle, you can try the following methods to get rid of pain and discomfort due to an ankle sprain and sleep better: 


Over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers can lower the intensity of pain and swelling, thus, allowing you to sleep better. Analgesics such as NSAIDs effectively reduce the inflammation in the injury site and help with pain relief.

Man holding over the counter pain reliever pills and a glass of water.

Ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and diclofenac salts are effective in safely reducing inflammation. You can take any of the right pills before bedtime to have a pain-free night. 

Oral and topical NSAID's have good analgesic potential in acute ankle sprain cases. Acetaminophen is also prescribed along with mild opioids in severe cases. You can apply pain-killer gels/creams before going to bed. 


Treatment sessions from a professional physiotherapist can be a fruitful way to speed up your recovery after the pain and swelling subside. According to a study, receiving therapeutic physiotherapy sessions twice a week can be beneficial for an ankle sprain as they can help regain your range of motion in the ankle while regaining strength and stability.

You can also avail a home physiotherapy session on your bed before going to sleep. Paired with kinesiology tape and cold application, it can impart superior effects.


The traditional Chinese treatment has also shown promising results in managing acute ankle sprains. As per a systematic review and meta-analysis, acupuncture was beneficial in alleviating symptoms of an acute ankle sprain. 

The Key Takeaway

If your pain exists or worsens despite following these suggestions and you have trouble falling asleep, it is vital to consult a medical professional at the earliest. They will determine the best course of action based on your symptoms.