The Healing Power of Sleep and How to Get More of It After Surgery
You may be unconscious, but while you’re asleep, your body goes into healing and recovery mode. In many respects, sleep acts as a permissive state in which the body’s tissues and systems can heal from a day’s worth of work. In the case of surgery, there’s more work for the body to do than normal, which means you need to take extra care to get adequate rest.
Of course, as long as you’re resting and not pushing yourself too hard, muscles slowly recover over time. However, the majority of the work of rebuilding and repairing takes place during sleep, but not just any sleep.
Human growth hormone (GH) stimulates muscle repair, and it’s released in its highest amounts during stage III sleep, the first of the deep sleep stages. A shortened sleep cycle or one that’s delayed by several hours can interfere with this process and lower the overall amount of GH released. Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep to make sure the body can take full advantage of this healing process.
Sleep Away Damage
An Estee Lauder funded study conducted at Case Western Reserve University found that sleep quality has a big impact on the skin’s ability to heal from daily damage. In the study, those who got poor sleep recovered slower and less fully from environmental stressors and UV rays than those who got eight hours of sleep. Poor sleepers also had more visible signs of aging. The skin needs time to heal just as the muscles do, and that requires sleep.
Better Sleep Post-Surgery
Surgery can create some sleep barriers. Soreness and comfort issues being the most common.
Here are a few tips to help your post-surgery sleep.
Create the right bedroom conditions. Now is the time to pamper your body. A bedroom that’s clutter free and completely dark is a good way to start. Light, natural and artificial, can suppress sleep hormones and clutter can trigger anxiety. Also, think about noise levels. If you’re on a noisy street or your neighbors keep odd hours, you may need a white noise machine to reduce disturbances.
Support your body as it recovers. The right support keeps your spine aligned and can prevent pressure on sore areas. A mattress that supports your weight and is designed for your unique sleep style can give you a good head start. You may need extra support pillows for a few days or weeks to prop up or reduce pressure on the surgery site.
Address pain. Follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to taking your pain medication. Take it on time so that you’re not left with a gap where you’re trying to catch up on pain relief. If your pain medication will wear off during the night, have pills and water on your nightstand ready to go so you don’t even have to leave the bed. You may also try ice packs or a heating pad before bed to reduce swelling and promote circulation.
Make time for sleep. Give yourself plenty of time for adequate sleep. You may be more tired than usual so factor that into your bedtime. Go to bed a little early. If you need a short nap, less than 30 minutes, during the day, do it. Take care and pamper yourself post-surgery so you’re body can focus on healing.
Sleep is your partner during recovery. Rest. Relax. Give your body the time it needs, and you’ll be back to normal before you know it.