How To Sleep With A New Tattoo?

February 14, 2018

Jelly Bell

How To Sleep With A New Tattoo?

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In the past, the tattoo was only popular among the underworld, gangsters or rockstars. Nowadays, the tattoo has become new trendy as a body decoration in the young. People could easily get a new tattoo in various shapes from professionals with reasonable price. However, few people understand the critical role of aftercare for a new tattoo, and how to sleep with a new tattoo is a significant question people getting new tattoo need to consider.

Reason to be careful while sleeping with a new tattoo

In the first one – two weeks after new tattoo implementation, your tattoo is an exposed wound which is likely to get infected. In a studio, when the tattoo artist creates an artwork on your body, they will inject a certain amount of ink, color pigments deeply into your body based on your request.

For further information of tattoo application, please read our last article HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET A TATTOO.

Your immune system will treat that liquid as “an invader” and react negatively to kick them out of your body. Microorganism so-called macrophages will get to the “battlefield” to destroy it. These macrophages swallow ink as much as they can, stay on the surface and build up a coating to your artwork. Hence, a combination of blood, pigment, plasma will be oozed from your tattoo for 1-2 nights, that in turn, will lead to infection.

There are several symptoms of septicity such as red fog around your tattoo, unbearable scabbing, hollows on your tattoo, fluid leaking out of your tattoo, and the swollen surface around your tattoo [2]. If these symptoms get seriously worse, you should consult with your doctor promptly, be quick in your action and follow your doctor’s suggestions.

It’s advised to keep your tattoo and everything that gets in touch with your tattoo as clean as possible to prevent any diseases generated from insanitation. When you get to sleep, you become unaware of whatever will occur to your tattoo as well as whatever will come in contact with your tattoo. If you don’t have a sufficient preparation for how to sleep with a new tattoo, the risk of infection will increase.

Besides, your bed will become a mess every night. The mix of blood and ink will usually spread all over your bed sheets, pillow during the night. And once the liquid’s dried, it’s burdensome to wash it off your bed sheets.

In summary, how to sleep with a new tattoo at night will influence a lot of things including how gorgeous your tattoo will become.

Be careful when sleeping with a new tattoo

How to sleep with a new tattoo – What to prepare

Then, how to prepare for a proper sleep with a new tattoo? Let’s take a look at the checklist below.

  1. Loose and clean clothes. Be ready to throw those clothes away as color pigments from your tattoo is likely to stain your clothes.
  2. Clean bed sheets and pillow. You should prepare various sets as you may have to change it quite often.
  3. Towels and bandage or plastic wrap. We will explain their usage later.
  4. Soap for tattoo for sterilization. You may read this article for better choice: WHAT IS THE BEST SOAP FOR TATTOO CARE
  5. Ointment for moisturizing. Again, we will talk about it below.

How to sleep with a new tattoo – What to do

Lift up your tattoo

Tattoo on some parts of your body such as hand, wrists, feet, leg will be more likely to get inflammation rather than tattoos on other parts because of gravity, and pressure from your heart. If location of the tattoo is lower than the heart, blood and lymph will flow to the tattoo more than one in other location.

Therefore, to prevent irritation and hurtful swelling, you should lift up your tattoo when you sleep by putting a pillow or towels under the area of your tattoo if it’s possible. The tattoos should be elevated higher than your heart.

Use clean bed, clean sheet, and towel

For small tattoos, it’s easy to take care of as all you need is a breathable, non-stick bandage to speed up the healing process and avoid leaking of ink, blood and other oozes. However, please note that bandages may come off any time while you’re asleep. For large tattoos or tattoos in a “special” position, aftercare procedure is a bit complicated.  

Then how to get a proper sleep with a new tattoo? As explained, you need to keep your tattoo as hygienic as possible. Hence, a sleeping bed free from dandruff, dead skins, germs, dirt is necessary for first few weeks after you got tattoo application. You should use old but clean bed sheets and pillow. It would be better if your sheets are dark color.

Also, place a clean towel underneath your tattoo. You will need to change the bed sheets, towels and wash them daily. Hence, two sets of bed sheets, pillowcases, and towels would be adequate.

Please note that during this time, you should use old, dark color bed sheets and towel; not your favorite or most precious one. As mentioned previously, it’s high chance that people who possess new tattoo might stain the bed sheets, pillow, towels, clothes or anything that touches the new tattoo. Also, the mixture of ink, blood, and other substances spilling from your tattoo isn’t easy to wash off. Therefore, buying cheap sheets and using it during this time seems to be a wise choice.

Use clean T-shirt

While you sleep, you can wear a loose T-shirt, loose pants, loose tank top, or any piece that work as a protective boundary between your tattoo and the bed, yet still give the tattoo space to breath. Remember that you should not let your clothes comes into contact with your tattoo too often.

In summer, it seems to be simple to pick any clothes to prepare for your sleep with a new tattoo. How’s about the winter? If your bedroom doesn’t have heater or air-conditioner, you would have better wear long, thick clothes rather than stay freeze in the winter. However, before wearing winter clothes, it’s advised to follow this aftercare procedure for your tattoo: clean – apply moisturizer – wrap with a thin towel or plastic wrap. In the next morning, you should repeat the procedure.

Once again, remember to wear dark color and don’t let your clothing touches your tattoo too much. You may have to throw those clothes away when color pigments stain your clothes, yet keep it clean and keep in mind to change your clothes daily.

Sleep for 8 hours daily

Sleep plays a critical role on our mental, and physical health. It is the time the body can regenerate and detoxify itself even when you are completely healthy. When you’re injured or sick, it could determine the length of your healing time. Lack of sleep consecutively may lead to weak physical condition and slow recovery.

When you get a new tattoo, it means that you get a deliberately wound which require more care and sleep to heal. Many scientists advise that an adult should sleep for at least eight hours per day. No matter whether you’re a night owl or not, it’s necessary for you to sleep eight hours every night to speed up your healing process.

How could your tattoo be affected? Maintaining sufficient sleep can support the immune system. Some studies of healthy person have stated that poor sleep can reduce the amount of lymph which plays a vital role on the body’s protective system, obstructing the tattoo from recovery.

Sleep for 8 hours daily
Sleep for 8 hours daily

Aftercare for tattoo before going to bed

Implementing the aftercare procedure before going to sleep is the critical activity that you should not forget. There are three main steps: cleaning – moisturizing – protecting. In protecting step, some people may choose to wrap the tattoo while some don’t. Hence, we have two types of aftercare procedures: wrap healing and dry healing.

Step 1: Cleaning

At first, clean your hand thoroughly with sterile soap. Then, use your hand – not washcloth or sponge as they’re too harsh for your open wound – to rinse the tattoo gently with lukewarm water. Make sure to choose an antibacterial and fragrance-free soap such as Hibiclens.

During this time, it’s preferred taking a shower rather than taking a bath. While bathing may cause harmful effect on your new tattoo, showering with care is moderately accepted.

For more detailed instruction, please read our last article SHOWERING WITH NEW TATTOO.

Step 2: Moisturising

Dry your tattoo with a clean towel, then apply a suitable type of ointment/ moisturizer. There are various popular choices such as Tattoo Goo, Aquaphor or Bepanthen, or Vitamin A and D [4]. Do not apply a thick layer of ointment as it will block your tattoo from breathing that, in turn, slow down the healing process. A thin layer of moisturizer should be enough for the tattoo to absorb.

For further suggestions, please read our last articles BEST LOTION FOR TATTOOS and IS AQUAPHOR GOOD FOR TATTOOS?

For your tattoo, it’s suggested to use a proper fragrance-free, alcohol-free, sensitive types of moisturizing lotion, or tattoo special-made lotion, or natural oils/butter such as coconut oils, and cocoa butter [1]. These moisturizers will reduce dryness, itching, and swelling.

Step 3: Protecting

As mentioned in the previous part, you can choose either to wrap your tattoo or to leave it like that after moisturizer application. Some people believe that covering your tattoo will create a defensive barrier between your artwork and the bed, that will stimulate the healing process. A clean towel or sterile bandage should be a proper choice. If you could not get anything like those two, you may replace with plastic wrap. However, plastic wrap should be your last choice.

In another hand, some people argued that wrapping your tattoo may slow down the healing process. Your open wound needs fresh air to breath, yet wrapping reduces the air around your tattoo. Therefore, other people prefer leaving as it is.

As each person has unique body condition, how much time each one need for recovery or how their body reacts to external factors is also different. You may try both wrap healing and dry healing to figure out which method is suitable for your body.

Ask for advice

In a certificated studio, tattoo professionals will take all necessary steps to promote sanitary tattoo application. Nevertheless, they’re not a doctor with the specific medical knowledge to give your right advice when abnormal syndrome occurs.

Disproportionate inflammation, headaches, fever, allergic symptoms, or too much bleeding may be an urgent call from your body. Even though you have already practised all advices of how to sleep with a new tattoo, something may go wrong. Do not ignore those sign and consult with your doctor promptly. Your hesitation may cause serious consequences.

How to sleep with a new tattoo – What not to do

Sleep on your new tattoo

Sleep on your new tattoo is the fastest way to increase the time for recovery or even destroy your tattoo. It does not only limit the space of air for new tattoo to breath but also increase the chance of sticking your tattoo to the bed sheets.

Any exposed wound need oxygen for its respiration to promote the healing process. If there is not enough air, the healing time will be prolonged. Also, when your tattoo is squeezed on the bed, environment surrounded the tattoo may become warm and damp, that in turn fosters bacteria to flourish.  

Moreover, when you lay down on your tattoo, it’s prone to adhere to the bed sheets. If this occurs to you, you had better carefully pour lukewarm warm through the sticky area, and then gently separate your tattoo and the bed sheet.

The solution is to try to sleep on the opposite side of your tattoo. If you have a new tattoo on your back, you should sleep on your stomach. If the new artwork is on your left leg, try to lie on your right side and vice versa. At the first place, you may feel uncomfortable, but this is the necessary thing you need to follow to have a beautiful tattoo in the future.

Hence, in short, how to sleep with a new tattoo? Do not sleep on your new tattoo.

Let pets in the bedroom

During this time, you should prohibit your pets from wandering around your bedroom no matter how much you love them. Dander and fur from your pets may transfer from their body to the bed which you supposed to keep clean as much as possible. Like an open wound, your new tattoo is rather sensitive. Germs, dirt, or dead skin cells from your pets may be transmitted to your new tattoo. Hence, your tattoo’s liable for the threat of allergies, and inflammation [3].

Besides, if you own dogs, they usually have a habit of licking their owner. Even your dogs don’t do it quite often, your tattoo with the smell of blood may attract them to do so, that’s harmful to your tattoo. Therefore, not to sleep with your pets is compulsory to complete how to sleep with a new tattoo.


Drinking is discouraged this time as alcohol is not good for your new tattoo. How can drinking affect your tattoo? When you consume a certain amount of alcohol, your liver will have to put into efforts to digest, detoxify and balance your whole-body system. Both immune systems and sleeping will be influenced heavily. Hence, the healing process will be slowed down.

For further explanations and advice, please read our last article CAN YOU DRINK AFTER GETTING A TATTOO.

Over/Under caring

As stated previously, aftercare procedure is important for the recovery of your new tattoo. However, neither overcaring nor under caring is recommended for stimulating the healing of your new tattoo.

Putting too much ointment/ lotion on your tattoo may have a bad effect. When you smother your tattoo with a thick layer of moisturizer every night, your pore becomes stifling, and the healing process couldn’t go on well. On the other hand, no moisturizer and no sanitary to be maintained at all will cause your tattoo swollen, itchy and irritation, or even severe infection.

The key is to carry on a healthy aftercare procedure with an adequate amount of ointment/lotion application. Remember these three major steps: clean – moisturize – protect and choose the suitable and proper products for your tattoo.


People usually touch their new tattoo quite often due to itchiness, irritation or sometimes curiosity only (they want to check how the healing process is carried on). Some people love going to the gym after tattoo implementation to show off their new artwork. With many people surrounded, abundant of people may ask to touch your new tattoo.

It’s not recommended to touch your tattoo too often as your hand, or any other hands can bring lots of germs, bacteria to your new wound. You should try to resist your or other’s eagerness of touching your tattoo to keep it hygienic as much as possible.

Don't touch the tattoo
Don’t touch the tattoo

Besides, the more you concern about how to sleep with a new tattoo with care, the more you should consider about work out after new tattoo with care as well.

For further information, please read our last article WORKING OUT AFTER GETTING A TATTOO.

Picking and scrubbing

After a few day or a few week of healing, the scab will gradually appear on the surface of your tattoo. It’s a good sign that the healing process is going on well. At this time, you should neither pull out the scab nor scrub your tattoo. Let it slough off naturally, or you may risk creating a larger scar.

Sinking your tattoo for a long time

Previously, we have suggested that you should clean your tattoo by showering it with lukewarm water. However, you had better limit the time of water contact. Do not use hot water or drown your tattoo in bath or swimming pools. Immovable water contains billions of bacteria which are unhealthy for your tattoo. Even submerging your tattoo in water with salt is not good, neither.

How long to sleep with a new tattoo with care

The first five days is the most significant phase in the healing process. During this time, your new tattoo which is exposed injury is at the most vulnerable stage and is liable to get infected. Don’t forget to follow the aftercare routine: clean – moisture – protect. Do dig in about how to sleep with a new tattoo and follow those suggestions. Choosing appropriate products for your tattoo also plays a vital role in supporting the healing process.

It takes approximately 2-4 weeks for your tattoo to heal almost totally, and your skin to restore to original condition. Remember to take good care of your tattoo during this time as it will influence the healing process and determine the final look of your tattoo. After this time, your body is still under healing stage, yet you can return to your routine and sleep comfortably without special care for your tattoo, or worry too much about how to sleep with a new tattoo.

For further information, please read our last article HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A TATTOO TO HEAL.  


In summary, we have gone through several critical points of how to sleep with a new tattoo to stimulate the healing process and reduce the risk of inflammation. Follow these instructions would help you to overcome this important phase without pain and give your tattoo the desired look.

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