It’s vital to look after your new tattoo properly to let your body heal and minimise infection. You might know how to care for your new tattoo in the day time, but what about during the night? Here are our best tips on how to sleep with a new tattoo.
Whether it’s your first tattoo, or another one for your collection it’s still worth refreshing these tattoo aftercare instructions each time to keep the best practices fresh in your mind. Proper care for your tattoos is so important for the healing process.
These tips will give you the best chance to get a good sleep while ensuring the wellbeing of your healing tattoo.
We all know the importance of sleep in every day life, and getting enough hours of sleep will help your tattoo heal faster too.
Your body actually treats the new tattoo like a wound. So just like when you’re sick, when you have a brand new tattoo you need to get some rest and let your immune system do its thing.
Follow these simple instructions for the first night, and 2-3 weeks after to allow time for your tattoo wound to fully heal up.
Overall the most important thing with tattoo care is to keep the area clean and never pick or scratch at your tattoo.
Keep the Pressure Off Your Tattoo
This can be harder with a large tattoo, but try to find a comfortable sleeping position which avoids putting pressure on your tattooed area.
You’ll need to consider the body part and location of your new tattoo. If you are a side sleeper and you just got a new sleeve on your left arm, then you will need to make an effort to sleep on your right side for the next few weeks to minimise pressure on the affected area.
Similarly, if you have a back tattoo, avoid lying flat on your back for whole night as the prolonged pressure on the blood vessels can affect your tattoo.
Sometimes it’s inevitable that you’ll move or roll around in your sleep or change sleeping position in the middle of the night, but as long as you’re aware and minimise sleeping on the tattoo site for a long time, you should be all good.
You’re sleeping with a new wound so you’re going to want clean fresh bed sheets. Clean sheets are always a good idea, as bedding can gather dead skin cells and other bacteria so regularly changing the bedding can help to avoid infection.
Once you stop covering your tattoo to sleep, there is a chance that your fresh ink may still be bleeding or oozing a little so if you have a spare bed sheet which is clean but not your favorite or most expensive bedding , it’s a great idea to use that.
Although there are no issues with your tattoo touching the fabric of a clean bed sheet, if it’s a location where you’re able to expose the tattoo to fresh air while you sleep that’s also great.
For example, sleeping with your arm outside of the covers rather than underneath if this won’t affect your sleep quality.
Wrapping Your Tattoo
Once you finish in the tattoo studio, your tattoo artist will normally wrap or cover your tattoo in cling film or saran wrap.
You can leave this adhesive wrap in place for the first night. Then, once the plastic wrap peels off, you can leave the tattoo exposed to the air.
Some tattoo shops may advise re-wrapping before you lie down to sleep, with fresh a cover, just for another night or two but the usual advice is to leave the area exposed so that air can circulate and help the healing, and not to use tattoo wrapping after the first day and first night.
Sleep in Loose Clothing
For the same reasons, you’ll want to wear loose clothing to allow enough air to circulate.
If you have a new tattoo on your thigh, then avoid wearing skin tight leggings and go for loose pyjama pants, or sleep in just a t-shirt.
If you have a tattoo on your shoulder, make sure your t-shirt to sleep in is plenty loose or even sleep topless, and so on.
What to Apply to Your Tattoo?
You can apply bepanthen cream as it is breathable but do not apply any heavy lotions or creams. When applying, don’t use a thick layer just a little bit is enough you don’t need to make it too heavy.
Avoid using products like vaseline, they do not allow the skin to breathe. Remember, your tattoo needs fresh air in order to heal.
Coconut oil is also gentle enough to apply to tattoos, if you do need something to moisturise the area. It can be used at any point of the tattooing process, with new tattoos or old tattoos.
You can also buy special tattoo wipes, these are not really necessary in the care of your tattoo but if you want to, then go for it!
To Shower or not to shower, before you sleep with a fresh tattoo?
Make sure you use a clean towel and gently pat the tat area dry, rather than rubbing over your fresh ink. If you have a small tattoo, you may want to use a paper towel to dry just that area of your body.
You can shower using mild fragrance-free soap and be sure to use lukewarm water not too hot.
On a similar note – avoid using hot tubs while you have a new tattoo healing.
Avoid Scratching Your Tattoo
It’s really important not to scratch or pick at a new tattoo, to avoid infections. When you first have your tattoo, it may be bleeding and oozing a little for the first few days but do not pick the scabs, or handle the area. The best thing is to leave it alone and just let your body heal.
If you are worried you may scratch at your tattoo in your sleep, then you could use some light cotton gloves or socks on your hands just like when you have chicken pox as a kid and need to avoid scratching! This simple idea is a great way to give you peace of mind if you are not sure you’re going to keep your hands to yourself while you get a good night’s sleep.
Keep the Room Cool
You want to avoid getting too hot and sweaty under your blankets, since the tattoo is like an open wound and you want to avoid tattoo infections.
Sleep in a cool airy room, with light sheets and blankets. Maybe run a fan while you sleep if the weather is hot. Let the air circulate and your new tattoo breathe!
Avoid Sleeping with Pets
Pet hair is another infection risk to your open tattoo wound so avoid sleeping with furry friends in bed until your tattoo is fully healed. The last thing you want is dog hair in that tattoo wound which is a huge infection risk so take steps of keeping your tattoo clean and pet free until it is completely healed.
Now that you know how to properly care for your fresh tattoo and minimise the risk of infection in the first week and beyond, you’re ready to start planning your new ink. Taking proper care can help to protect your artwork, and is vital for your overall health.
Here are a few of our most popular tattoo posts to help you out with some tattoo design inspiration before you head over to the tattoo studio.
If you’re planning to get a mehndi or henna tattoo, we also have a handy guide to henna tattoo aftercare that you’ll want to read.
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Please share this advice with friends who are going for their first tattoo, or on social media. Thanks so much!
Anna is a Wales-based writer and graduate from SOAS University of London.
As the voice behind On Your Journey, she empowers women to embrace holistic well-being and spiritual growth through her expert insights into wellness and symbolism.
When she isn't writing thought-provoking articles, you'll find her busy crafting and raising her 4 children.