Shop all
20% off

How To Sleep With a New Tattoo

Getting a new tattoo is always exciting — whether picking flash designs off the wall, collaborating with an artist on a meaningful tattoo, or a few sessions into a larger piece. 

If you are a first-timer, you are probably experiencing those pre-tattoo nerves and questions, especially as the time to go under the gun gets closer. You’re probably wondering what exactly the post-tattoo process looks like.

Your artist can’t give you all the aftercare tips and advice you might need to heal a tattoo. They might forget to mention that thing we spend a third of our life doing — sleep! When it comes to bedtime, there are more factors to consider than you may realize.

Here’s how to sleep with a new tattoo like a pro, to heal it quickly and keep it vibrant.

Clean Your Tattoo Before Going to Bed

When it comes to tattoo healing, there is a heated debate about the best techniques. Aftercare tips will vary from artist to artist, but one thing is certain: you must keep your tattoo clean. This encourages proper healing and prevents infection.

You'll need to clean the area as bedtime approaches after getting your new ink. Use an antibacterial or gentle cleansing soap on your tattoo, washing with lukewarm water as you head to bed. Make sure to dry it off well since moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria and can block the necessary airflow your tattoo needs. 

Sleep in a Clean Bed

Not only is clean skin important, but a clean sleep environment is a must. You won’t want to crash on a friend's couch, go camping, or sleep in any other location that might not be 100 percent clean for the first week or so.

A little preparation before your appointment will set you up for success. Wash and change all your pillowcases, sheets, and other bedding. Bedding can accumulate bacteria, dust, dirt, and pet hair from daily use. 

These can cause irritation and inflammation as you rub against them throughout the night. A clean bed equals a happy body and a happy tattoo.

Get Plenty of Sleep

To put it simply, a tattoo is a wound. Consider when you’ve got bumps, scratches, or other mild injuries. They trigger an immune response in your body to start fighting to heal itself. 

People who have gotten tattooed before will know this intuitively — you may have felt drowsy or slightly feverish later in the day after an appointment.

Getting enough sleep will speed up the process, like an injury or a cold. So prioritize rest and relaxation after you get your new piece.

Wear Loose Fitting Clothing

Your tattoo needs specific conditions to heal itself: room to breathe to encourage the creation of a natural skin barrier from the elements and a lack of pressure and friction to reduce inflammation, irritation, and swelling. 

If form-fitting or tight clothing styles are your preferred sleepwear, you’ll want to change into something comfier in the early days of your tattoo.

Trade in restrictive clothes for looser ones that don’t apply excess pressure. This will improve the healing process and reduce the possibility of your tattoo sticking to them. You’ll also want to wear clothing you won’t mind getting some ink and plasma on.

Use Spare Sheets at Home

As your tattoo heals, especially in the first week or so, some ink and blood plasma will seep out. Many first-timers have woken up to the unpleasant surprise of stained sheets. Be aware that this stuff is usually somewhere between difficult and impossible to fully get out of your bedding.

In other words, consider buying some less expensive sheets until you’ve passed the seeping phase, and keep the high-thread-count sheets packed safely in your closet. You may even want to opt for a darker-colored set less likely to stain.

Pack Bedding When Traveling

Traveling with a tattoo can be uncomfortable. You’ll have moments of redness, swelling, and itchiness — all of the things you don’t want on a flight or a long drive. 

Many people don’t think about packing sheets and bedding on a trip while healing up. Hotels and Airbnbs get frequent use, so you can’t always guarantee perfect cleanliness. Packing your own supplies will help you ensure a clean sleep environment.

Bringing your own will also provide some insurance in case your new tattoo leaks at your accommodation — you don’t want to get charged to replace stained bedding.

Practice Proper Aftercare

You should practice proper aftercare from the moment you unwrap your tattoo. Not only will this lead to a properly healed, vibrant tattoo, but it can lessen the discomfort of the first few nights of sleep. This means washing with gentle or antibacterial soaps and proper drying. 

Before you change into your comfy clothes for the night, apply Mad Rabbit’s Tattoo Soothing Gel. It can reduce the discomfort of tossing and turning through the night. It also curbs the post-tattoo itchiness that, like a mosquito bite on a much bigger scale, will drive you crazy as you try to doze off. 

Be Aware of Sleeping Positions

Some of us toss and turn at night, constantly switching from position to position. Even the stillest sleepers will likely move around a bit as the night goes on. But when it comes to sleeping with your new tattoo, it's good to be intentional about your positions. 

If you have a preferred sleep position, sorry, but you will likely have to give it up for the first week. But you will definitely thank yourself when your tattoo has healed well.

Sleep on Your Stomach

Sleep on your stomach if you are working on a big back piece, butt, knee ditch, or calf tattoo. Sleeping directly on your tattoo can put excess pressure on the area, causing inflammation and irritation.

Sleep on Your Side

For hip pieces, arms, side of hip tattoos, and work on the side of your leg, you will want to side-sleep until the healing process is finished. 

If your tattoo is on the right side of your body, sleep on your left — always the opposite side. Besides creating unwanted pressure, lying on your tattoo with all your weight can restrict the necessary airflow that helps your tattoo breathe, a key element of the healing process.

Sleep on Your Back

Front-of-the-body tattoo work can be the most physically punishing of all tattoo experiences for many people. The bones and tender areas of the chest, stomach, and other parts of the torso can lead to a grueling experience. After you’ve made it through one of these sessions, you’ll want to spend your first week or so sleeping on your back.

Don’t Sleep With Your Pets

We love our pets — your new tattoo may even be in honor of them. But our pets' lifestyles do not mix well with healing a new tattoo. 

Pets get dirty from playing outside, their coats attract bacteria, and their dander, saliva, and fur are natural irritants. In their efforts to show how much they love you, they may accidentally scratch your tattoo, causing pain, damage, and potential infection.

So take a few nights off from cuddling with them to ensure your tattoo heals itself.

Don’t Tear Off Stuck Clothing

A new tattoo is beautiful, the artwork of your dream from an artist you love that you carry with you forever, but there are plenty of unglamorous moments after a tattoo that almost no one mentions. 

People who have been getting tattoos for many years, especially those with larger work, will be familiar with clothing and sheets getting stuck to their backs. It's uncomfortable, but resist the urge to rip them off like a band-aid, which can damage skin, pull ink out, and lead to a distorted tattoo. 

In the case of a shirt, you can hop into a lukewarm shower and let the water do its work until it naturally releases itself. When it comes to sheets, take the walk of shame to your bathroom and moisten it with lukewarm water until it comes off with ease.

Mad Rabbit Can Make the Process Easier

We’ll be honest, for first-timers and tattoo veterans alike, the sleeping process after a new tattoo is not the most fun. But the great thing is, it passes, returning to normal in about a week. On top of that, there are many ways to make the process smoother.

Mad Rabbit’s aftercare products can make this uncomfortable time much easier. Our Tattoo Soothing Gel soothes inflammation, redness, and irritation, making it possible to get some much-needed ZZZs. 

Once your tattoo is healed and your sleep is back to normal, continue your aftercare by switching to our Tattoo Balm. It hydrates and moisturizes your skin, helping to maintain that freshly tattooed vibrancy throughout your life — making those hard nights well worth it in the long run.


Tattoos: Understand Risks and Precautions | Mayo Clinic

Tattoo Complaints and Complications: Diagnosis and Clinical Spectrum | Karger

13 Tips for a Healthier Tattoo | Salem Health

Join the discussion

Try risk-free & save with the Essential Sets

Starter Pack

The full care: enhance, repair, defend
$50 $65 Save 25%
Best Seller

Daily Defense Set

Show off your tattoos in the sun and have them shining bright all day
$40 $50 Save 20%
Best Seller

New Tattoo Set

The ultimate relief to heal fresh ink and make it shine
$40 $50 Save 20%