How to Sleep Well After Surgery: Tips to Help You Sleep Through the Night

Learning how to sleep well after surgery will allow your body to heal more quickly. We’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you do so.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Getting enough sleep is particularly important after any surgical procedure. Your body needs the rest to heal, and your emotional wellbeing can also benefit from the right amount of shuteye.

Unfortunately, it can be quite challenging to sleep well after surgery. This is troublesome because surgery can leave people feeling mentally and physically fatigued. In order to heal properly and get back to feeling healthy and productive, it’s important to learn ways to improve your sleep quality and quantity following a surgical procedure.

Man laying in a hospital bed with his leg raised in traction with flowers and cards next to him.

Why Are You So Tired Following Surgery?

In the days, weeks, or even months following surgery, many people experience extreme fatigue. It can feel like you don’t have the energy to do anything more than sit or lie down. There are many reasons why you might feel lethargic following surgery. These include:

  1. Healing: Your body will need to physically heal following surgery. This takes energy and resources and tends to necessitate rest, leading to feelings of mental and physical fatigue.
  2. Existing Sleep Debt: Many people go into their procedure sleep deprived. This can be due to things like trouble sleeping from pain, worry about your health or the procedure, or trying to get ahead with work before taking a leave of absence.
  3. Operation-Related Fatigue: Medications, fasting, and blood loss are just three of the many factors that can make you tired for the first few days following surgery.

In order to regain your energy and recover mentally and physically, it’s critical to prioritize sleep.

How to Sleep Well After Surgery: 6 Tips and Tricks

In spite of feeling fatigued, many people will struggle to fall asleep quickly or sleep soundly throughout the night following a surgical procedure. Pain and stress are two common factors that disrupt sleep after many types of surgery, and thus, the ones that must be addressed to help encourage proper sleep.

1. Go to Physical Therapy

While the physical therapy appointments themselves might be difficult and painful, physical therapy can help you recover faster and decrease pain along the way. Physical therapists can offer personalized tips that might help you relieve pain through exercises or stretches, plus your expedited recovery process can help you get back to your normal schedule faster.

2. Don’t Drink Coffee Too Late

When you lack energy, it can be tempting to use caffeine to cover up the symptoms. It’s best to avoid drinking coffee late in the day, particularly after surgery. Even drinking too much of it in the morning and afternoon can make it hard to sleep at night if you’re sensitive to caffeine. Try avoiding caffeine or limiting yourself to a couple of cups of coffee or caffeinated tea early in the morning.

3. Take Your Medications

You will likely be prescribed a variety of medications following your surgery. They may help to reduce inflammation, improve pain, or fight off infection. Follow your doctor’s advice and take your medications as directed to avoid complications and expedite healing. Additionally, it is a good idea to take pain medication about thirty minutes before you go to bed to reduce the likelihood of pain stopping you from falling asleep or waking you up shortly after you drift off to dreamland.

4. Try Meditation

Meditation has been used as a tool to reduce stress and pain, with multiple studies finding that meditation can help to improve sleep by reducing pain following surgery. Guided imagery meditation with soothing biorhythmic music can encourage relaxation and sleep.

5. Avoid Napping

When you feel tired throughout the day, it can be hard to not lie down and take a nap. The problem is that excessive napping can make it harder for you to achieve quality sleep come nighttime. If you need a nap, try not to exceed one 15-30 minute nap each day.

6. Create an Optimal Sleep Environment

Your sleeping needs are likely to be different after surgery than they were before. It can be helpful to setup a sleeping area just for yourself that is comfortable and relaxing. You may want to avoid sleeping with others in order to reduce how often you’re woken up once you fall asleep. Additionally, make sure that the room is cool, the bed and blankets comfortable, and the room dark to allow for you to sleep soundly.


Closing Thoughts

Sleeping after surgery is both challenging and important. Be kind to yourself, and don’t expect perfection right away. But with a little bit of work, you can slowly improve your quality of sleep, allowing you to heal faster and feel less fatigued during your healing process.


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