I have a couple of questions about sleeping after having a hair transplant.
1. How do you keep your hands from touching the recipient area while comatose?
2. How do you keep from rolling over and sleeping on your stomach or sides?
I have a couple of ideas to prevent myself from doing this, but wanted to hear experiences with this.
This hair loss question was answered on our hair restoration forum by Dr. Paul Shapiro of Bloomington, MN who is a member of the Coalition of Independent Hair Restoration Physicians. His professional answer is below.
Rest assured, it is very uncommon to have a hair transplant patient touch or rub their head at night while asleep and damage the newly transplanted hair.
I agree with Dr. Feller’s answer about the subconscious taking over. If you have ever had any other surgery or injury you may notice that it is very uncommon to hurt it in your sleep. Your body knows there is an injury and knows it will be painful to touch it. What we do see in our practice is a patient will accidentally hit their head when they are awake and dislodge some grafts. This is a much larger concern for us then anyone hurting the follicular unit grafts while asleep.
I would not recommend putting any type of dressing on the grafted area. My concern is that the hair grafts could stick to the dressing and come off when removing the dressing.
When hair transplants consisted of larger grafts, many hair loss doctors use to put on occlusive dressings after hair restoration surgery. But with the small follicular unit grafts most doctors got away from using the dressings. Bandaging of the scalp is often more uncomfortable then the pain from the surgery, and it can sometimes block venous and lymphatic drainage. Also, we like to use a spray called “Grafcyte” on the transplant starting right after surgery. “Grafcyte” has copper peptide which can aid in healing and keeps the transplanted area moist.
If you insist on a dressing, let your doctor do it. There is a special non-stick bandage call Telfa which would prevent the grafts from sticking onto the bandage.
As for sleeping on your back: We ask patients to sleep on their back with the head propped up on a few pillows to help the fluids that have accumulated in the scalp during the hair transplant to drain. If one lays on their face or side, the fluid may not drain well and noticeable swelling can occur. Laying on ones back with their head propped up helps reduce the possibility of swelling, but does not eliminate it. If it is difficult for you to sleep on your back or you toss and turn, you may have a greater chance of some post operative swelling, but this does not affect the outcome of the surgery.
As for hitting the grafted area while tossing and turning, it is very difficult. Just try to position yourself in bed so that the typical surgical area is touching the bed/and or pillow and you will find that unless you are a contortionist it is very difficult.
Lastly, there are many medications available to make your first few post operative days comfortable. We give all our patients Vicodin, a strong pain medication which also has a sedative effect. Most hair restoration patients sleep very well when they take Vicodin. For patients in which anxiety may make it difficult for them to sleep I will prescribe Xanax, or Valium.
Lastly we always offer our hair transplant patients a follow up visit the next day. We will do the first hair wash and make sure all the grafts are snugly in place.
I hope this information is helpful.
Paul Shapiro, MD