Advise Me

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep with a Port

If you need chemotherapy to treat your cancer, your doctor might recommend a port. A chemo port is a small device implanted under the skin, usually in the upper chest. It’s easier and safer to administer your chemotherapy drugs through a port rather than an IV.

But a port can take a little time to get used to, and you might be worried about how you’ll sleep comfortably with a chemo port after it’s put in place.

Julie Lyon, RN, a patient education specialist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, AZ, explained how to get a good night’s sleep when you have a port.

What’s the best position to sleep in with a port?

“The best position to sleep in is on your back. This position prevents pressure on the port which may cause pain,” Lyon said. That means you might need to change your normal sleeping position.

You might also find that sleeping on your side is a more comfortable sleeping position. For side sleepers, it’s better to sleep on the opposite side from where the port is inserted. If your port is on the right side of your chest, sleep on your left side, or vice versa.

You’ll want to avoid sleeping on your stomach, at least at first, since you might feel pain at the port site. Try not to sleep with your arm raised on the side of your body that has the port since that could pull on the port. Avoid any twisting or pulling movements on the side of your body with the port.

“Pain will get better with time, as the port insertion site heals after surgery,” Lyon said.

Could the port fall out when I roll over?

No. Many people worry about the port falling out, but Lyon said the port is securely placed under the skin in your chest, so it can’t fall out if you roll over or move around in bed. If you rub or pull on the port site when it is healing, though, the incision could open and start to bleed.

There’s also a risk of infection, so tell your doctor if the site looks red, is draining, swells or feels warm.

How can I get comfortable sleeping with a port?

You can place a body pillow on your side to support yourself and keep you from moving around while you’re sleeping. Wear loose fitting, soft pajamas that don’t have buttons that could rub on the port site. If your mattress is old and saggy, think about replacing it. “A mattress with support may help you sleep better, reduce discomfort and move around less,” Lyon said.

The bottom line

If you need chemotherapy to treat your cancer, a port may be a good option. It might be hard to get comfortable in bed in the first week or so when the port is healing. But as you heal and adjust to new sleeping positions, you should get a good night’s sleep.

“Be sure to tell your doctor if you are having a lot of pain or problems sleeping as he or she may have more suggestions that can help,” Lyon said.

These articles can help you learn more about living with cancer:

Cancer Sleep