I Don’t Sleep with a Night Drain

I don’t sleep with a night drain system. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out.

My radical cystectomy was in August 2019, by November I was sleep deprived and in a constant struggle with my night drain. Either my bag wouldn’t drain properly or I always managed to somehow pull the tubing out of my bag. After waking up soaked or to a nearly exploding bag night, after night, after night, I had to try something new.

Waking up to empty my bag

There was no way I would be able to go a whole night without emptying my bag. I generally have pretty high output 24/7 and being down a kidney means I can’t restrict my water before bed. So, the puzzle was how to make sure I would wake up to empty my bag and how often.

Finding the sweet spot

I noticed I was waking up hourly on my own to check my bag, so I started there. I placed a one-hour timer on my smartwatch, and when it went off, I trotted to the bathroom and emptied my bag. Eventually, I found my sweet spot was about every two to two-and-a-half hours. There are now 2 alarms set on my watch to wake up and empty my bag. Way before my surgery, I was waking up at least once a night to use the restroom because I’ve always been a heavy water drinker. Waking up twice to empty my bag didn’t seem to deviate much from my pre-surgery routine.

Finally sleeping soundly

After about a month, the wake ups became a habit. I still use my watch alarms, but I usually wake up a minute or two before it goes off as my body is just used to it now. Other than no longer fighting with the tubing of the night drain, I found myself actually sleeping soundly. I wasn’t worried about checking my bag constantly or if it was going to overfill. I am out cold until my alarm goes off and like anyone who has shuffled to the restroom in the middle of the night, I barely register that I am awake to do so. The greatest relief has been the ability to sleep on either side and even a modified version of stomach sleeping. Training myself to sleep on my back with a tube running over the side of the bed was nearly impossible for me. Finally, I was getting quality sleep for the first time in months.

Trial and error to find the best ostomy care routine for you

I don’t share this information necessarily to encourage folks to ditch their night drains. This anecdote is to encourage ostomates to find ways to make their ostomies work for them! I often hear that people have never once changed their routine, bag brand, or stoma care from what they were taught by their stoma nurse on day one. This isn’t a bad thing, but experimentation along with a little trial and error is worth making your ostomy as comfortable as possible. I now have my own weird way of tucking my bag when I want to wear form-fitting clothes. My stoma care routine is probably a little longer than most when it comes time for bag changes. I’ve tried angling my bags in different ways, trialed so many barrier rings, and each brand of ostomy product has been given a shot at least once.

Make your ostomy fit your lifestyle

Urostomy products are constantly evolving. The education surrounding living with ostomies is advancing daily. I am always reaching out to fellow ostomates to see what is working for them and sharing any new tricks I learn along the way. Ostomies come with their own world of drama, from leaks to skin issues to discomfort. Never be afraid to reach out to your wound care team for new ideas. Send a message to one of the many ostomy proud accounts on social media. Ask a million and one questions. Whether you sleep with a night drain or are one of those bold people who don’t use barrier wipes, make your ostomy fit your lifestyle rather than fit your life around your ostomy.

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