Strategies & Exercises to Improve Sleeping Mobility


Individuals in post-surgery recovery or dealing with illness or an injury can experience weakened muscles and endurance that can cause temporary loss of sleeping mobility and inability to move around normally because of weakness, decreased range of motion, or pain. Can they benefit from physical therapy to help get back to normal functional mobility?

Sleeping Mobility

For individuals who are hospitalized or homebound from injury, illness, or surgical recovery, a physical therapist will assess various areas of functional mobility. These include transfers – from sitting to standing positions, walking, and sleeping mobility. Sleeping mobility is the ability to perform specific motions while in bed. A therapist can assess sleeping or bed mobility and recommend strategies and exercises to improve movements. (O’Sullivan, S. B., Schmitz, T. J. 2016) A therapist may have the individual use specific devices, like an over-the-bed trapeze or a sliding board, to help move around.

Bed and Sleeping Mobility

When a physical therapist checks mobility, they will assess various motions that include: (O’Sullivan, S. B., Schmitz, T. J. 2016)

  • Moving from sitting to lying down.
  • Moving from lying down to sitting up.
  • Rolling over.
  • Scooting or sliding up or down.
  • Scooting or sliding sideways.
  • Twisting.
  • Reaching.
  • Raising the hips.

All of these movements require strength in different muscle groups. By checking out individual motions in sleeping mobility, a therapist can work out specific muscle groups that may be weak and require targeted exercises and stretches to restore mobility to normal. (O’Sullivan, S. B., Schmitz, T. J. 2016) Individuals visiting a therapist in an outpatient clinic or rehabilitation area may have the individual work on sleeping mobility on a treatment table. The same motions on the treatment table can be done in the bed.


The body is meant to move.

For individuals who cannot move comfortably on their bed, the body may suffer disuse atrophy or the wasting away of muscular strength, which can lead to increased difficulties. Not being able to move can also lead to pressure ulcers, especially for individuals who are severely deconditioned and/or remain in one position for a long period. Skin health may start to break down, leading to painful wounds that require specialized care. Being able to move around in bed can help prevent pressure ulcers. (Surajit Bhattacharya, R. K. Mishra. 2015)


A physical therapist can prescribe specific exercises to strengthen muscle groups and improve sleeping mobility.  The muscles include:

  • Shoulder and rotator cuff muscles.
  • Triceps and biceps in the arms.
  • Gluteus muscles of the hips.
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Calf muscles

The shoulders, arms, hips, and legs work together when moving the body around the bed.

Various Exercises

To improve bed movement, physical therapy exercises can include:

  • Upper extremity exercises
  • Lower trunk rotation
  • Glute exercises
  • Bridges
  • Leg raises
  • Short arc quads
  • Ankle pumps

Physical therapists are trained to assess these motions and functions and prescribe treatments to improve body movement. (O’Sullivan, S. B., Schmitz, T. J. 2016) Maintaining appropriate physical fitness can help the body stay active and mobile. Performing mobility exercises prescribed by a physical therapist can keep the right muscle groups working properly, and working with a physical therapist can ensure the exercises are correct for the condition and are performed properly.

Optimizing Your Wellness


O’Sullivan, S. B., Schmitz, T. J. (2016). Improving Functional Outcomes in Physical Rehabilitation. United States: F.A. Davis Company.

Bhattacharya, S., & Mishra, R. K. (2015). Pressure ulcers: Current understanding and newer modalities of treatment. Indian journal of plastic surgery : official publication of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India, 48(1), 4–16.

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The information herein on "Strategies & Exercises to Improve Sleeping Mobility" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, acupuncture, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


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