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Can You Use A TENS Unit While Sleeping?




TENS unit while sleeping

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TENS units are helpful for pain. As many people experience pain while they’re in bed, you might be interested in using a TENS while sleeping. 

So, can you use a TENS unit while sleeping? You can, but only if you set a timer. TENS units shouldn’t be used for more than 20 minutes in the same spot, so you’ll need the timer to ensure you remove the pads after that 20-minute period. Another reason to avoid using it while sleeping is that the adhesive pads can move while you sleep.

To learn more about proper usage of TENS, as well as how to adjust it while sleeping to best suit you, read on. 

How to Use a TENS Unit While Sleeping?

While using TENS while sleeping is completely doable, you should still use it only when taking short naps, not for the entire night. During the night, you tend to move around a lot, which means that the electrodes would move as well. This constant movement might shift their positioning and cause them to fall off or move to the wrong spot on your body.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to take a short nap, TENS could be the necessary relief you need to get some rest. While you’re napping, you won’t move as much, which means the chances of the electrodes moving are lower. As such, you can safely apply this treatment while you’re taking a nap. 

To do this, you would need to set the timer that is available on most TENS units. General guidelines for TENS usage state that the pads should be moved every 20 minutes. So, you can set the timer to 20 minutes and make your nap that long. 

If you keep the pads on one spot for longer than 20 minutes, you could get side effects like skin irritation or pain in that specific area. 

Before falling asleep, apply the gel and then place the pads on your painful spots while setting the timer. If you don’t fall asleep in that amount of time, you can remove the pads or just move them to a different spot. Remember to set the timer again so you can remove the pads after your 20 minutes are up. 

If you have someone who could help you with this, that would be ideal. If you’re a deep sleeper,  you could keep sleeping after the timer goes off and neglect to change the positioning of the pads in time. 

How Long Should You Use a TENS Unit?

TENS units have long been a popular solution for people in pain, but there are always questions about the limitations of this device. Naturally, there are rules and guidelines that a responsible owner of TENS should follow. 

As you might know, TENS is not an invasive form of therapy, and it’s a safe one too. Painkillers are invasive in a way, and they can affect the body negatively; not to mention the chance of addiction that comes with stronger medications. 

TENS is also not addictive, so you can’t overuse it in that sense. 

If you wanted, you could use TENS without limitations without getting addicted to placing the pads on your body. However, keep in mind that studies have shown that using TENS too much can lead to you becoming tolerant to it, meaning that you wouldn’t get any benefits from it at all. At the same time, another study has shown that using TENS more often does increase the length of pain relief.

In general, you should probably talk to your doctor to come up with a plan that will give you more pain relief while still keeping your body susceptible to its effects. 

As far as frequency of use, the best advice is to use TENS when you need to. It will give you pain relief no matter where you are. TENS units are small, so they are extremely portable, and you could use one at work, at home, while running or anything similar. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use it while driving or in the bathtub — you need to keep it away from wet things, which means no cold or warm packs. 

Follow the instructions on your device, and you shouldn’t have any issues. The effectiveness of TENS varies from person to person, but it should positively affect the production of natural painkillers in your body, no matter what condition you have. 

Medical experts and people who have used TENS recommend that you shouldn’t use TENS for longer than 20 minutes in one area since the pads could cause some irritation, and the area could become painful because of the electrical currents. You can use it for more than 20 minutes, as long as you take the necessary precaution and move the pads every now and then. 

In general, the sensation that comes from TENS is pleasant. If it isn’t, you should change the settings to make them milder and more suitable for you. 

There are automatic timers which can allow you to use TENS without thinking about the time. You can take breaks between those 20-minute sessions or use it continuously while still taking a moment or two to switch the placement of the electrodes. 


Why should you trust me?
I have extensively used TENS units for neck, shoulder, back and knee issues and became familiar with TENS therapy through countless visits to my chiropractor and physical therapist’s office. I have spent many hours researching and reading how TENS therapy can alleviate pain.

I consider myself knowledgeable in the use of TENS units and have used them regularly to help manage pain over the years. Many of my recommendations are from firsthand experience/use and hopefully my information can be a benefit to you.

Want to know where a TENS unit can be placed?  Check out my TENS placement guide here

Knee Pain
Neck Pain
Shoulder Pain
Tension Headaches
Golfer’s Elbow
Plantar Fasciitis
Rotator Cuff Pain
Restless Leg Syndrome
Ulnar Nerve Pain
TMJ Pain


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One response to “Can You Use A TENS Unit While Sleeping?”

  1. […] should never use a TENS unit while you’re sleeping because you can’t monitor how you’re responding to the treatment. It’s possible for the […]

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