Bypass Surgery is connected to a variety of postoperative complications, one of which is insomnia, or lack of sleep. What’s the best way to deal with it?
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) “as many as 44% of heart patients experience sleep issues” and that “up to 50% of heart surgery patients experience sleep disturbance for two to six months after their procedure.” With underlying causes ranging from breathlessness, stress caused by health anxiety, prescribed medications, etc.
What Causes Lack of Sleep Post-Bypass Surgery?
As mentioned, there are many potential causes of lack of sleep post-bypass surgery. This plays a key role in why so many postoperative patients experience insomnia after the fact. The most common of which are the following:
- Health Anxiety: Being burdened with stress or anxiety makes for pitiful sleep — if you get any sleep at all. A lot of patients deal with health anxiety and depression after a bypass operation and find themselves either incapable of sleep or dealing with constant sleep disturbances.
- Pain/Discomfort from Healing: The first few weeks after surgery, you are likely to feel more tired and sore than normal. Even more than that, you may also experience sharp, intermittent pains in your chest and other aches and pains around your body. This pain or discomfort may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.
- Breathlessness: The BHF gives an example of another complication, namely, breathlessness, that may also make it more difficult for you to sleep.
- Prescription Medication: Some patients don’t react well to prescription medication. For example, one of the side-effects of beta-blockers is difficulty sleeping.
It can be difficult to identify what exactly is causing your sleep issues after a bypass surgery because there are so many potential causes. In some cases, the reason may even be cumulative rather than just one particular reason. Fortunately, whatever the cause of your insomnia may be, there are things that you can try to do in order to deal with it!
Dealing with Bypass Surgery Sleep Issues
Before we go over all the different tips and tricks we have for getting over your sleep issues, it’s important that you first learn how to properly deal with how you are thinking about sleep.
According to the BHF, we tend to overfocus on our sleep issues. This, quite ironically, leads to even more sleep difficulties — especially if you get too hung up on the why or how.
To start ‘dealing’ with your surgery-induced sleep issues, you should push it out of your mind first. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it is the most effective way of dealing with it.
Treating your sleep issues with too much focus may just result in a self-fulfilling prophecy where your lack of sleep is caused more by your anxiety over having insomnia than anything else.
If this doesn’t work for you. Or, if you’re really struggling with pushing it aside on your own, then that’s when you should try out the tips we’ve listed below.
Tips for Dealing with Sleep Issues
Here are some tips for dealing with sleep issues post bypass surgery, some of which were directly recommended by the Cleveland Clinic.
- Take Pain Medication: If you’re on pain medication, make sure to take it on time — taking it too early or too late may make it more difficult for you to sleep.
- Avoid Naps: It may be tempting to sleep during the day, especially if your sleep has been disturbed during the nights, but over-napping may end up disturbing your sleep patterns even more.
- Relaxation Techniques: Meditation or muscle relaxation activities help loosen up the body and mind — and make it easier to slip into a restful sleep.
- Sleeping Pills: Not recommended for everyone, and definitely not for long-term use. However, if it works for you, it’s a good thing to consider in the short-term. These are especially useful in the beginning — when the pain and discomfort are at its worst, and when rest is even more important than ever for the actual healing process.
- Create a Routine: It may help if you create a strict bedtime routine as well. Over time, these routines should help you get into the habit of preparing your body for sleep.
As a final note, you might find some of these tips more or less helpful than others depending on your situation and the period of recovery you’re in.
- Healy, R. (2018, August 08). Dealing with insomnia. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/wellbeing/dealing-with-insomnia
- Sleep After Heart Surgery. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/heart/patient-education/recovery-care/surgery/sleep