How To Cope With Insomnia After Surgery

Recovery following surgery can sometimes be challenging. Some people have sleeplessness due to pharmaceutical side effects, pain or discomfort, or the stress and worry of having an operation. 

A lack of sleep can often hurt recovery, creating increased pain sensitivity, a greater risk of delirium, or more cardiovascular events. Even modest surgical procedures can have a significant impact on your sleep. There are several causes for this, and identifying the root of your disturbed sleep aids in dealing with insomnia after surgery.

Have you considered clinical trials for Insomnia?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Insomnia, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia may occur if you have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep following surgery. People who have recently had an operation frequently express sleep difficulties. 

Insomnia can be classified into two types:

  • Primary insomnia is insomnia that is not caused by another medical issue.

  • Secondary insomnia happens when you have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep due to another health condition.

Those who have trouble falling asleep after surgery may be experiencing secondary insomnia.

Along with the two varieties of insomnia, this condition can be either short- or long-term:

Chronic insomnia 

Chronic insomnia can last anywhere from two weeks to six months or more. This insomnia is generally caused by various disorders such as depression, worry, stress, and pain.

Acute insomnia 

Acute insomnia can range in duration from days to months. This form of insomnia is more common in those who have difficulty sleeping after having surgery.

What causes postoperative insomnia?

There are several reasons why you may be experiencing difficulty sleeping in the days after your surgery. Part of why sleep is disrupted is the distress you feel from not attaining your preferred sleep postures. 

Additionally, you need more sleep after surgery than you are accustomed to since your body is under a lot of stress, affecting your rest. Naturally, when your daily pattern is interrupted, it throws everything out of balance and creates conditions that make it difficult to sleep.

Additional causes

Other possible reasons for insomnia following surgery include:

Larger surgeries

Major operations can occasionally set off a more widespread inflammatory reaction that affects the entire body. This postoperative inflammation¹ may have a role in the sleep difficulties that many patients suffer following surgery.

Effects of anesthesia and steroids

Insomnia can be caused by anesthesia because it disrupts your internal schedule, making it harder to fall and remain asleep.

Steroids reduce inflammation and are frequently taken during surgery to assist people in managing their discomfort afterward. However, the same drugs that are supposed to treat the patients have a detrimental impact on their sleep by causing insomnia.

Environmental conditions

Hospitals can be pretty loud. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, the noises may sound like a marching band strolling through the corridors. 

Not every patient has the same sleep issues following surgery. People hospitalized in the critical care unit are more likely to have sleep difficulties. Furthermore, extensive surgeries are more likely to produce serious sleep problems than less invasive treatments.

How to sleep and overcome insomnia after surgery

Although insomnia can occur at any stage of recovery, you typically have difficulty sleeping immediately following surgery. According to one study, 48% of patients² cited discomfort as the reason for their sleeplessness on the first day following surgery. 

How can you sleep better and cope with your insomnia after surgery? Here are some suggestions for enhancing sleep after surgery and combating insomnia at all recovery phases.

Avoid napping whenever possible

Make an effort to go to bed and wake up consistently. No matter how exhausted you are, minimize naps during the day. Patients must return to a regular sleep pattern and convince their bodies that the chronic pain is no longer there.

Take pain relievers

Take your pain relievers! Your body still requires drugs before physical therapy, after physical therapy, and before bed, even if you feel well.

Relax your muscles

The goal of progressive muscle relaxation is to gradually tense and then relax each area of the body. Start at the lower part of your body and work your way up. Tense and release each muscle group to obtain relaxation. 

Repeat the practice until you start to feel yourself letting go and relaxing.

Address existing sleep issues

For those who have trouble sleeping, treating a pre-existing sleep issue can assist improve sleep following surgery.

Consider your surroundings

Reduce postoperative sleep disruption by removing as much ambient noise and light as feasible. Earplugs and an eye mask might help you sleep better. Consult your healthcare provider about making any required changes to your sleep environment.

When to consult a doctor

If you’re having trouble sleeping following surgery, talk to your physician about it. They can go through your medicines with you and change your pain management strategy to help you sleep better.

If you stay  in the hospital for several nights following a major treatment, your doctor can support you in making changes to enhance your sleep quality, which may include:

  • Detecting underlying sleep problems

  • Lowering nighttime noise levels

  • Reducing unnecessary interventions and check-ins at night

  • Developing a light exposure routine

Talking with your doctor about any worries you have about your treatment early and regularly may help lessen the chance of sleep issues following the surgery.

The lowdown

Sleep issues often plague the days and weeks following surgery. The type of procedure determines the duration of sleeplessness after surgery and if postoperative treatment includes an overnight stay in the hospital. 

Several things might interfere with your capacity to achieve a restful night’s sleep. It might be due to factors in your medical environment, such as noise levels, constant interruptions, or unpleasant monitoring gadgets.

It’s vital to remember that getting a decent night’s sleep will be difficult in the days following your operation. Furthermore, it will take some time for your body to adapt so that you can resume obtaining the sleep you require properly. 

It will take time and determination to reset your internal body clock, but the work will be worthwhile. In general, it is essential to allow for adequate recuperation time so that your body and mind can heal and return to everyday life.

Have you considered clinical trials for Insomnia?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Insomnia, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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