How to Sleep with a New Tattoo: A Practical Guide

11th May 2021


So you got inked! Whether it’s your first one or your 10th, congrats! There’s something special about having a meaningful symbol permanently etched onto your skin.

But before you get too excited about it, it’s essential to learn how to sleep with a new tattoo. Getting this wrong can result in a dull, patchy artwork that doesn’t look great!

Sleeping with new tattoo artwork can be difficult the first few days. But it’s worth taking the time and making the effort to do it properly. Your ink will heal faster and look amazing, and you’ll be glad you took good care of it!

Here’s what you need to know about sleeping with a new tattoo.

Why Is It Important to Sleep the Right Way with a New Tattoo?

A new tattoo is fragile! It’s an open wound that’s still in the process of healing. If you don’t take care of it while it’s still healing, it can become infected. That can not only make you sick, but can also ruin your artwork.

When you sleep, you aren’t always aware of how you’re lying or moving. If you move around a lot and have the blanket rubbing against your tattoo, it can cause inflammation. Inflammation leads to swelling. This literally distorts the skin and makes healing properly more difficult.

Lying flat on your tattoo can also ruin it. Putting pressure on your new ink can also cause swelling. Or, it can actually push the ink out of your pores and dull the color.

It might sound difficult to sleep comfortably without rubbing or lying on your tattoo! But it’s important if you want your artwork to last. It will only be for a few days until it begins to heal.

The Importance of Sleep in the Healing Process

Whether you're healing from a cold or from a wound (like a tattoo), your immune system plays a big role. And sleep is a critical part of keeping your immune system healthy.

Getting good sleep helps you heal. While you’re asleep, your body gets to work sending white blood cells to affected areas, without any interruption.

When you aren’t getting great sleep, your immune system doesn’t do its job as well as usual. Your tattoo can take longer to heal or be at a higher risk of infection.

But getting good sleep with a new tattoo can be tough. When you’re taking care to sleep a certain way, every movement can wake you up.

If you do end up rolling onto your tattoo, it may ache or twinge, causing you to wake. Or, if your tattoo is a spot that makes it hard to lie comfortably, you may struggle to fall asleep from the start.

Figuring out how to sleep with a new tattoo is important to help you get the best sleep possible. 


How to Sleep With a New Tattoo 

Take some time to prepare before getting into bed. This can help you get better sleep and preserve the quality of your tat.

You’ll only need to be extra careful for about a week. After that, your tattoo should be healed enough for you to relax a bit!

Here’s a few tips on how to sleep with a new tattoo.

Clean Your Tattoo Before Getting Into Bed

Your tattoo artist will give you cleaning instructions. They'll also recommend a product to clean your tat with. They may recommend that you sleep with their wrap on for the first night. But from night two you’ll need to clean and rewrap it yourself.

Use lukewarm water and non-scented soap. Apply the lotion your artist gave you and wrap it up again before getting into bed.

You’ll only need to wrap it for a couple of days. If it’s feeling good and has stopped oozing, you can leave it unwrapped from night five.

It’s a great idea to clean your tattoo immediately when you wake up too. Just like normal skin, your tattoo can become dry during the night. Clean and moisturize upon waking so your ink stays well-hydrated and healthy.

Sleep in a Clean Bed

Used sheets contain dust, dirt, dead skin cells, and possibly bacteria. Getting any of these on or into your new tattoo can lead to contamination and infection!

If you can, we recommend putting new sheets on every night for the first week or so. Dark-colored bedding is best, so that if ink lands up on the sheets it’s less likely to stain.

For more protection, lay a clean towel or blanket on top of the sheet, underneath you. That way, if it does stick to your tattoo during the night you don’t have to change the whole set of bedding again.

Try to NOT Sleep on the Tattoo

This one may be tricky. But the position you sleep in is important when learning how to sleep with a new tattoo. We’ll get into more detail later on!

You want to sleep in a position that doesn’t put pressure on the tattoo. Lying on it can cause rubbing, inflammation, prevent good airflow, and trap moisture against the tattoo.

You can sleep on your new tattoo once a new layer of skin has begun to form over it. Usually, this takes between four and seven days.

Wear Soft and Airy PJs

Find pajamas made of the softest material possible. Rough material can scratch your artwork and cause damage.

If you can, go PJ-less to prevent them covering and possibly getting stuck to your tattoo.

It’s also a good idea to choose loose clothing if you don’t want to go commando. They’ll allow for better airflow, which will help your tat to breathe. 

Get Enough Sleep

We’ve already discussed how the body needs good quality sleep in order to heal properly. Part of getting good sleep is getting enough sleep.

Everyone works differently. You may be perfectly okay with six hours a night, while I may need nine hours to feel rested.

When you’re sleeping with a new tattoo, try to get at least eight hours. Even if you usually only get six or seven, the extra sleep will help you heal faster.

Keep Pets Off the Bed

If your pup or cat sleeps on the bed with you, it can be hard to keep them off for a few days! But it’s essential to avoid getting pet hair, dust, dirt, and animal dander on your tattoo.

If your pet won’t sleep in their own bed, you may need to keep them out of the room for a few nights. Once the new layer of skin has started forming on your ink, you can have them back on the bed. 

What If My Bedding Sticks to My Tattoo? 

Don’t freak out if you wake up and your sheet is stuck to your tattoo! If it happens, do not try to pull it off just like that.

Take the piece of bedding with you to the bathroom and wet the sheet. As it becomes moist, it should loosen and be easier to pull off the tattoo.

Take your time with this! If you pull it off too quickly you could take off skin, which will damage your artwork. Wet it and work it off of your tattoo slowly.

Should I Wrap My Tattoo at Night?

Take your tattoo artist’s advice on this one. We’ve already discussed wrapping above, but generally the artist knows best.

If you’re nervous to sleep with your tat uncovered, you can cover it up for the first three or four nights.

Don’t wrap it with cling film if you do decide to cover it. Choose something breathable like a sterile bandage or medical wrapping. The tattoo needs good airflow, and cling film traps sweat and moisture against the tattoo.

How Do I Sleep Comfortably in an Unusual Position?

Figuring out how to sleep with a new tattoo can be challenging.

If you’ve been inked on your back, lie on your side or front. If your tat is on your side, sleep on the opposite side. Lie on your back if your artwork is on your chest. For tattoos that cover arms or legs from front to back, raise the limb with a pillow so that it doesn’t lie flat.

Sleeping on Your Back

If you’ve been inked on your chest, stomach, or the front of your thighs, you’ll need to lie on your back to avoid damaging your ink.

Use pillows to support you in this position. Place a pillow under your knees, or smaller cushions under each knee. This will relieve pressure on your lower back and keep you more comfortable in this position.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Back and shoulder tats will require you to sleep on your belly. If you can’t handle lying on your chest, place a soft pillow under your chest. This helps to raise it up slightly and reduce the pressure.

You can purchase a special pillow that’s designed to make stomach sleeping more comfortable. It has a hole in it to allow you to place your head comfortably and breathe. 

Sleeping on Your Side

If your new artwork is on your side, it’s obvious that you should sleep on the opposite side. You could sleep on your back or stomach. But there’s more chance of you accidentally rubbing against the tat or turning over onto it.

Pillows can help to support you in this position. Place pillows (or one long pillow) at your back to keep you from turning over. You can have another one in front of your chest to round out the support. 



Figuring out how to sleep with a new tattoo isn’t that hard! It’s just a matter of being mindful, taking precautions, and being willing to put yourself out a little until it’s healed.

It’s worth the trouble, though! The last thing you want is a damaged tattoo. Follow these steps and the advice you received from your tattoo artist.

Just a few nights of annoyance and discomfort for a lifetime of a stunning tattoo sounds like a good trade-off!

Happy sleeping (with you new ink)!