How to Sleep After Wisdom Teeth Removal? (BEST Tips)

Category: Adult Dentistry, Common Questions, Dr. Advocate's Insight

Dr Advocate Avatar IconBy: Dr. Advocate
Updated: April 4, 2023

Female sleeping after wisdom teeth removal | My Dental Advocate

According to a recent study, 73% of high school students don’t get enough sleep—unfortunately, the percentage skyrockets after wisdom teeth extractions. Wisdom teeth removal is necessary for most 15 to 25-year-olds, and much of the planning and preparation revolves around the surgery.

Immediately after surgery, you are fatigued and need to rest; sleep is a top priority. This article explores how to sleep after wisdom tooth extraction and the best tips for healing and recovery.

Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth | The Ultimate Guide

Wisdom teeth removal

Wisdom teeth or third molars are the last adult teeth to erupt and are located in the back of the mouth. They come in between the ages of 15 and 25, and 85% of Americans will have them removed. Most people have four wisdom teeth (two on top and two on the bottom); however, it’s possible to have one, two, three, or more than four; the extra teeth are called supernumerary teeth.

Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth Removal (What’s Involved?)
Young woman with sensitive teeth and cold ice-cream at home | What is a Cavity? | My Dental Advocate

After wisdom teeth surgery, you may experience swelling, inflammation, and discomfort for a few days. Expect bleeding and oozing to occur for up to 24 hours. Use a cold pack and anti-inflammatory OTC medications to minimize pain and swelling.

In addition, you may have difficulties opening and closing your jaw as the muscles have been stretched during the procedure. The healing process after third molar extractions can be taxing.

Restful sleep is vital to minimize symptoms and decrease recovery time. Sleeping also promotes healing, repair and recovery. For example, you will have more pain without restful sleep, and it will take longer for your mouth to heal. In addition, inadequate sleep can lead to anxiety, depression and mood swings.

Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth Removal Cost 2023 (With & Without Insurance)

How to sleep after wisdom teeth removal

Sleeping modifications are necessary to minimize swelling, prevent dry socket and decrease pain. For example, you should sleep on your back to avoid inadvertently damaging the healing tooth sockets. In addition, you should elevate your head above your heart at a 45-degree angle. This position allows sufficient blood to flow to and from the extraction site.

Let’s explore the best tips for a restful night’s sleep from a dentist’s perspective.

  1. Take medications – Immediately after your wisdom teeth are removed, take OTC or prescribed pain medication. The sooner your take the medicine, the more comfortable you will be when the numbness wears off. As a dentist, I recommend you fill out the medication before the procedure, so it’s available to take soon after.
  2. Stay hydrated – Drinking enough water allows your body to repair damaged tissue. Water improves blood flow and blood volume. In addition, adequate hydration aids recovery and decreases your pain response. Stick to the 8 x 8 rule. Drink 8 oz of water 8 times per day. Not drinking enough water will leave you sluggish, tired and weak. Take care of your body so you can recover faster.
  3. Remove gauze – Bite on gauze for 30-60 minutes immediately after surgery. Oozing is expected; however, if you are still bleeding, continue to bite on gauze until your blood clots. A blood clot is essential to fill the hole and repair the area. A dry socket will form if the blood clot falls out, leading to severe pain. Be sure you remove the gauze before you sleep so you don’t choke on it.
  4. Cold compress – Studies show that a cold compress or ice pack reduces the magnitude of post-operative symptoms. Also, it decreases pain and swelling after the procedure. Cold therapy constricts the blood vessels and decreases the blood flow. In addition, cold treatment induces muscle constriction, which reduces muscle stress, pain and inflammation.
  5. Elevate head – Elevate your head above your heart for 24-36 hours to decrease swelling and inflammation. Use this type of pillow or extra pillows to prop up so that you’re stable and comfortable. Sleeping in a La-Z-Boy or recliner is another option to keep your head elevated at a 45-degree angle. In addition, keeping your head elevated decreases blood pressure, alleviating undesirable throbbing and discomfort.
  6. Sleep on back – If you sleep on your side, you will put excessive pressure on one side of your jaw, increasing swelling and inflammation. In addition, your tongue may inadvertently disturb your sutures/stitches or blood clots. Sleeping on your back allows for an upright posture and protection for your healing mouth. Be sure to place a towel over your pillow or use a pillowcase you don’t mind bleeding on. Bleeding and oozing are expected, especially during the night.

Additional tips to improve sleep

Create a comfortable sleeping environment so you can calm your mind and optimize your chance of restful sleep. Sleep research is one of the fastest-growing areas of study because so many people suffer from sleep loss.

According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans are sleep deprived and receive less than 7 hours of sleep. Yet, countless studies recommend 7-9 hours of sleep each night to repair your mind, increase energy and improve focus. According to research, let’s look at additional techniques to enhance sleep.

  • Room temperature – According to studies, the ideal temperature for restful sleep is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body’s temperature decreases during sleep, and a cool room will help you maintain a healthy sleep cycle throughout the night. Conversely, if the room temperature is too hot or cold, it may affect the drop in your body’s internal temperature and cause you to have disrupted sleep. Restful sleep repairs the mind and body, including the extraction sites.
  • Nasal stripsBreathe right nasal strips or similar products open the nasal airway to allow unobstructed airflow. People that can breathe easier are more likely to sleep better and wake up less often. In addition, nasal strips help alleviate congestion and even feature calming scents such as lavender.
  • Humidifier – Similar to breathe right nasal strips, humidifiers seek to increase ambient moisture and open airways. According to studies, it’s unknown how effective humidifiers are in improving sleep, but many people are adamant about it, especially those living in dry environments. In addition, humidifiers alleviate morning sore throats, and you can add calming scents.
  • White noiseStudies show that white noise is recommended for masking environmental noises, improving sleep, and maintaining sleep. White noise is the most common; however, many others feature rain, thunder and ocean sounds. Specific applications allow you to set a timer so the white noise turns off after you fall asleep.
  • Allay lamp – I use the Allay lamp and have found that it reduces light sensitivity, decreases headaches/migraines and eases tension. Dr. Rami Burstein created Allay lamp after years of research and development. The lamp emits only the precise narrow band of green light that minimizes irritation and keeps the brain calm. Use this type of light instead of white light for reading before bed.
  • Screen timeStudies show that 96% of teens have some form of technology within their bedrooms, and 57% experience sleeping problems due to screen usage. The human body follows a circadian pattern that relies on light signals to tell us what to do. For example, when it gets dark outside, our bodies produce melatonin, which causes drowsiness. Interference with this sleep cycle leads to poor sleep and decreased wound healing.
  • Weighted blanketWeighted blankets weigh about 15 lbs and have been shown to reduce anxiety, decrease pain perception and improve sleep quality. Because weighted blankets are relatively new, there’s limited research available. However, many product reviews rave about how helpful the blanket is for their sleep quality.

Common post-op complications

Dry Socket Blood Clot | My Dental Advocate

  • Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) – Dry socket is the most common complication and occurs when the blood clot falls out, exposing infected bone. This condition is excruciating and most often occurs around days 3 and 4. The dry socket is treated with dry socket paste (eugenol + cloves) by the oral surgeon or irrigated with sterile saline to initiate a new blood clot formation.
  • Post-operative pain – Your medical provider may prescribe a pain medication such as Vicoden or Codeine to decrease the pain response. However, if you don’t take prescription pain medication, research shows that 600 mg Ibuprofen + 325 mg Tylenol taken every 4-6 hours effectively reduces dental pain. In addition, an ice pack will decrease pain, swelling and inflammation.

Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth Pain: Symptoms, Relief & Home Remedies (Helpful Tips)

  • Temporary/permanent numbness (paresthesia) – Paresthesia can occur from trauma to the inferior alveolar nerve (IAN) that runs adjacent to lower wisdom teeth. According to a recent study, inferior alveolar nerve (IAN) paresthesia occurs 0.35% to 8.4% of the time. Although these figures are relatively low, they are still significant for patients and clinicians.

Complete recovery of inferior alveolar nerve injury (IANI) occurs 6 to 8 weeks after the trauma, although it may take up to 24 months

  • Excessive bleeding – Bleeding and oozing are expected up to 24 hours after surgery; however, if you are actively bleeding after 24 hours, call your dentist as soon as possible. Patients taking blood thinners or other platelet management medications may experience this complication. If bleeding is uncontrolled, bite on a tea bag until your dentist can see you.
  • Damage to adjacent teeth – During the surgery, the oral surgeon uses great force to pry and loosen the wisdom teeth from the bone. It’s not uncommon for the surgeon to inadvertently damage adjacent teeth, crowns or fillings. However, most complications can be quickly resolved by your dentist.
  • TMJ damage/clicking/popping – The TMJ can be stretched and traumatized during the procedure as the surgeon and assistants access the wisdom teeth. Although it’s uncommon, clicking or popping after your wisdom teeth have been removed may occur; however, if there is no pain, there is no cause for concern.
  • Jaw muscle strain – Similar to TMJ trauma, the muscles that support the jaw will be stretched during the procedure. As a result, sore, stiff or tender muscles are common for 1-2 weeks after the surgery. Use a cold compress for the first 36 hours to minimize swelling, followed by alternating cold and warm packs afterward. In addition, it’s not uncommon to have limited jaw opening after surgery because of jaw muscle strain.
  • Swelling & infection – Swelling and bruising are expected after wisdom teeth removal; however, if you notice signs of infection, including an elevated temperature, contact your surgeon, as this may indicate that you need antibiotics. In addition, use OTC anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil) as is necessary to minimize inflammation and pain.
  • Poor nutrition – It’s essential to stay hydrated after the surgery and consume adequate carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. Stick to a soft food diet for 1-2 weeks. Consume foods such as macaroni & cheese, applesauce and protein shakes. Poor nutrition will lead to poor healing and ineffective immune response. In addition, be sure to get enough sleep to allow your body to recover after surgery.
  • Nausea & vomiting – Nausea can occur after IV sedation, general anesthesia or after swallowing too much blood at night. Prevent nausea by eating before bed, sipping on water during the night and managing your pain. Take medication as indicated by your provider; however, to help prevent nausea, do not take your medications on an empty stomach. Hold off on your medications, if possible, until nausea subsides. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Sometimes, patients feel nauseated after taking prescription pain medications, so if you have continued nausea and vomiting, call your dental office for further instructions.

Recommended Reading: Sedation Options for Wisdom Teeth Removal (Read this FIRST)

Aftercare instructions for quicker recovery

Man taking medication after with water | My Dental Advocate

  1. Take prescribed medication before the local anesthesia wears off
  2. Rest and recover for the first 3-4 days to allow the mouth to heal
  3. Avoid sucking, spitting, smoking or vigorously swishing to prevent dry socket.
  4. Use cold compress up to 36 hours after surgery to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling
  5. Alternate between hot and cold packs after that to stimulate healing
  6. Gently rinse mouth out with warm salt water 2-3x/day
  7. Gently massage TMJ and jaw muscles to decrease soreness
  8. Keep head elevated up to 72 hours after surgery to minimize pain and swelling
  9. Sleep often and stay off of your feet
  10. Avoid physical activity for 3-4 days
  11. Consume adequate amounts of fluid and electrolytes (Gatorade)
  12. Consume sufficient amounts of nutrients (soft-food diet)

Best/worst foods for sleep & recovery

Your oral surgeon will advise you to stay on a soft-food diet for 1-2 weeks. The diet allows time for your mouth, jaw muscles and gums to heal. A change in diet after wisdom tooth extraction can prevent you from getting adequate nutrients and disturb your sleep cycle.

Recommended Reading: 101 Foods to Eat After Dental Surgery, Implants or Wisdom Teeth Removal

Some foods are packed with crucial vitamins and minerals, while others will leave you sluggish and run down. Consider your body an engine that needs the right fuel to run efficiently. Similar to the body, if certain food chemicals interact with the brain, it can lead to a positive or negative response.

Let’s explore the differences between certain foods and how they affect sleep and recovery.

Best foods

  • Kiwi – Research shows that people who ate kiwis before bed fell asleep faster, slept more, and had better sleep quality. The Kiwi fruit is soft and comfortable to chew. Kiwis contain tiny seeds; however, they won’t impact the healing tooth socket. In addition, Kiwis are loaded with Vitamins C & E and potassium to aid recovery.
  • Fatty fish – According to a recent study, fatty fish is an excellent food for better sleep. The study found that people who ate salmon three times per week had better overall sleep and improved daytime functioning. Researchers believe that fatty fish may help sleep by providing a healthy dose of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which help regulate serotonin.
  • Dairy – Milk itself contains essential vitamins and minerals, including melatonin. Also, dairy is an excellent source of probiotics that will help alleviate GI discomfort when taking prescription pain medication or antibiotics. Did you know that cows milked at night have more melatonin in the milk? In addition, dairy products are soft and easy to consume when your mouth is sore and swollen.

Worst foods

  • Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant that you should avoid in the afternoon and before bed. According to research, caffeine is known to have antioxidant properties that may have an inhibitory effect on wound healing. Although caffeine is essential for many individuals, it’s best to avoid especially if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect how the brain works. Alcohol can alter the balance, memory, speech, and judgment. In addition, alcohol can interfere with circadian sleep cycles and decrease the healing response. Avoid alcohol until you are fully recovered, and use it wisely.
  • Nuts – Nuts like almonds, cashews and pistachios are packed with essential minerals such as magnesium and zinc. They even contain melatonin. However, nuts can easily fall into the tooth socket and irritate. Avoid nuts for at least two weeks to prevent disturbing the healing socket and blood clot.

Recommended Reading: What to Eat After Wisdom Teeth Removal? (BEST & WORST Foods)

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


I recommend sleeping upright for 3-5 days after wisdom teeth removal. This allows enough time for the blood clot to form and secure within the tooth socket. The most likely days for dry socket is day 3 and 4.

Wisdom teeth removal triggers nerves that send a painful response to the brain. The body responds by increasing blood flow and repairs the injury with a connective tissue framework. A throbbing pain is felt because of increased blood flow.

The best way to speed up the healing process is to consume adequate amounts of nutritious food and water and get rest. Then, the immune response will work to repair the damaged tissue.

My Experience & Expertise

Restful sleep affects our day and is essential for living a quality life. After wisdom teeth removal, it’s vital to maintain a healthy sleep schedule to provide the best opportunity for healing and recovery. Apply the sleeping tips and other helpful nutrition information to get back on your feet and on with your life.

The more you know, the more healthy habits you can develop, saving you and your family from avoidable and potentially expensive dental procedures. Talk to your dental professional for more suggestions on improving oral health and check back for more blog posts and relevant information. Please share this site and let us know what else you’d like to know!