7 Ways to Cope With Insomnia After Surgery
- When Sleep Is Hard to Come ByRecovering from surgery is anything but restful. For some, it can result in insomnia, whether it’s from side effects of medication, pain or discomfort, or just the stress and anxiety of undergoing surgery. Lack of sleep, in turn can often affect recovery, causing an increased sensitivity to pain, a higher risk of delirium or more cardiovascular events. The good news is there are many things you can do to help improve sleep and bounce back from surgery a bit quicker.
- 1. Do some deep breathing.Deep breathing exercises can be effective in allowing both mind and body to relax. By focusing on your breath, it can help take your mind off any pain or discomfort that’s keeping you from sleep. Start with a deep inhale through your nose, counting slowly to four on the inhale. Hold the breath for another four seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth on a count of six. Repeat as often as necessary. If you find it’s not working, try going slower.
- 2. Try progressive muscle relaxation.Progressive muscle relaxation can also help with postoperative insomnia by putting your body in a more relaxed state. The idea is to gently tense and then relax each part of the body. Start with your feet, and slowly work your way up the body, tensing and relaxing each set of muscles, to your shoulders and neck. Repeat the process until you feel yourself begin to let go and relax.
- 3. Adjust your medicine.No matter what type of surgery you had, it’s natural to have some degree of pain or discomfort. If you take pain medicine, schedule it around 30 minutes before bedtime, if possible, to help you get comfortable and catch some much-needed shut-eye. There are also medications that have proven effective in promoting sleep after surgery, including zolpidem, melatonin and dexmedetomidine. Ask your doctor if any of these is right for you.
- 4. Consider your environment.Studies show that for patients admitted to the ICU after surgery, changes to the environment are helpful in improving sleep quality and sleep efficiency. These include maintaining a quiet and dim environment, and decreasing interruptions from care activities at night. The use of earplugs and an eye mask also help promote sleep. Talk with your care team about making any necessary adjustments to your sleep setting.
- 5. Take a shower or bath, or listen to music.Sometimes the simplest things can be ultra-soothing and bring us comfort. Try a relaxing shower (or bath if permitted) to wind down. The warm water can also help ease any pain that may be keeping you from a good night’s rest. Or try listening to relaxing music or a guided imagery audio program to help you drift off to sleep.
- 6. Share your concerns.Recovering from surgery, or simply being in a hospital, is enough to make anyone nervous or anxious. It can also lead to additional worries—about finances, disrupted career plans, caregiving needs, or a potential change in lifestyle. But you don’t have to face these alone. Get your troubles off your mind by talking to a loved one or a trusted friend. If you’re in the hospital, you can also ask to speak to a counselor, social worker, chaplain or behavioral health specialist on duty.
- 7. Talk to your doctor.If you still find yourself struggling with insomnia, or if your normal sleep patterns don’t return after a few weeks, talk with your doctor about other treatment options. Also, let your doctor know if lack of sleep is causing any changes in your behavior or other problems in your life.
7 Ways to Cope With Insomnia After Surgery | Postoperative Insomnia