Sleeping With A New Tattoo

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 22, 2017
    Last Updated: November 26, 2020

After getting a new tattoo, you will need all of the sleep you can get in order for your body to heal and renew quickly and optimally.

However, sleeping with a new tattoo can be both painful and uncomfortable – not to mention anxiety-provoking. Nobody wants to accidentally damage their new ink during the night.

Pre-Bed Routine

Before going to bed, it’s important to clean your tattoo carefully but thoroughly to ensure any lingering bacteria is removed. Leaving any bacteria around the wound will allow them to breed and multiply for hours while you’re sleeping (in a warm, cozy environment, which they love).

You should also closely follow the advice of your tattoo artist when it comes to your initial tattoo wrap. While some artists will ask you to remove your wrap before you go to bed on your first night, others will advise you to leave it on until the morning.

As your tattoo artist knows your ink better than anybody, it’s always important to adhere to their instructions.

Tips For Sleeping With A Tattoo

1. Use a spare clean sheet you don’t mind ruining

There are a couple of reasons to use a different/clean bed sheet.

Firstly, your new tattoo is essentially just a big open wound at the beginning of the healing process, and because of this, you will want to keep it as clean as possible in order to prevent any bacteria from causing an infection.

For this reason, you should always have freshly cleaned bedsheets to use the night you’re back from the tattooing studio, and you should change it as often as possible over the next couple of weeks until your tattoo is sufficiently healed.

Once your tattoo has finished the peeling stage, you can stop worrying so much about the cleanliness of your bedsheets, as your tattoo will have regenerated its protective layer of skin to keep infection-causing bacteria out of the area.

Secondly, your tattoo will definitely be leaking a mixture of blood, ink and plasma for 1-2 nights, and this stuff is notorious for seeping onto bedsheets, and once dried, it is very difficult to get off due to the color pigments within the ink.

For this reason, if you have a favorite set of sheets that you wouldn’t like to get ruined, then you should definitely find a (clean) spare one to use that you don’t mind getting covered in blood and ink.

An advantage of leaving your tattoo wrap on for bed on the first night is that you can try to keep leakage and bedsheet-sticking to a minimum.

2. Don’t sleep on your tattoo

This is the difficult part – especially if you always sleep in the same position and have a very awkwardly-placed tattoo.

What you will ideally want to do is keep your tattoo free from touching anything as much as possible, and definitely don’t be lying on top of your tattoo so that it’s pushing against your mattress.

This could not only cause the tattoo to stick to the sheets while you’re sleeping, but it could also starve the area of oxygen, which can delay healing times. Your wound needs good, fresh air in order to breathe and regenerate effectively.

Finally, if your tattoo is pressed firmly into your mattress all night, it’s likely to get hot and sweaty, and this warm, humid environment is a perfect breeding ground for germs and bacteria – therefore try to keep your tattoo as open and free as you possibly can.

Try to sleep in a position where your tattoo will not likely get stuck to any bedding

3. Don’t Rip Off Stuck Sheet

Sometimes (normally when having already taken your tattoo wrap off), you can wake up in the morning to find that the wound has been pressing against the bedsheet and has actually stuck/dried against it.

The worst thing you can do in this instance is to just pull the sheet away from your skin. This process can pull the ink right from inside your tattoo and leave you with blotchy and patchy areas of color, as well as delayed healing times.

The best thing to do would be to take the whole bedsheet with you into the bathroom and gently run the area under lukewarm water until the sheet eventual falls away from the skin.

This method is much more gentle and has much less risk of damaging your new tattoo when compared to just trying to simply pull the sheet away.

4. Don’t let pets in the bedroom

Not only do dogs, cats, and other animals harbor a whole host of microbes, but they also love blood!

Pets can have amazing senses of smell, and will seek out even the smallest of bloodied wounds from meters away – and if they catch a sniff of your new tattoo, then all they will be thinking about for the rest of the night is how they can get to it in order to lick it clean.

The only way to ensure your pet doesn’t jump onto your bed while you’re sleeping and start licking and transferring millions of gruesome germs onto your tattoo is by keeping them outside of the bedroom, no matter how much you/they may not want to.

5. Get 8 hours

Your body goes through the bulk of its repairing phase as it sleeps. If you live on only 5-6 hours’ sleep every night then your tattoo healing process is going to be affected and is going to take much longer.

Even if you’re a natural night-owl, it’s always best to try to get as much sleep as possible for the first week or so after getting a new tattoo to give it the best chance at healing quickly and effectively.

6. Elevate

Tattoo work completed on your lower extremities (and sometimes wrists/hands) will generally be more prone to swelling due to gravity (blood and lymph will naturally flow and pool closer to the ground if it’s able to).

Therefore, in order to keep away as much uncomfortable and painful swelling as possible, try to elevate your tattoo as you sleep by placing a pillow or rolled-up towel underneath the area if it’s viable to do so.

7. Don’t Drink or Smoke

Not only will you be more likely to knock your tattoo against various objects after a few beverages, but alcohol also greatly affects your quality of sleep. In order to give your body the best chance of healing, it’s best to stay away from alcohol for at least the first few days of your tattoo aftercare regimen.

On that note, smoking constricts blood vessels and limits the amount of nutrients and oxygen getting to the area – setting you up for delayed healing and infection.  It’s best to stop smoking for a week before and a week after getting your tattoo if you want fantastic results.

8. Clean and Moisturize

Rolling around in bed and rubbing your new tattoo against mattresses and bedsheets while sleeping can cause the sheets to extract moisture from the area, potentially causing the tattoo to become dry and cracked.

After cleaning your new tattoo immediately upon waking up, apply a good unscented, skin-sensitive moisturizing lotion, or a specially made tattooing lotion to the area to promote healing and prevent dryness and itching.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.


It can definitely be uncomfortable sleeping with a new tattoo, but by following the steps above you will give yourself the best chance of ensuring your tattoo heals quickly and effectively while also getting a great night of sleep at the same time.

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