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Cardiac Surgery and Sleep: Seven Tips To Navigating The Path To Recovery

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Living with cardiovascular disease can leave individuals feeling like shadows of their former selves. Cardiac surgery offers a pathway to better health and an improved quality of life. However, the recovery period can present uncertainties and challenges. While physical healing takes center stage, it is crucial to recognize the impact of cardiac surgery on sleep and overall well-being. This article will explore the sleep-related challenges that can arise after cardiac surgery and offer strategies to improve sleep quality for better post-surgery recovery.
Man sitting on bed and feeling sleepless
Sleep can be impacted after cardiac surgery

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in brain function and the body's healing process. It is essential for cognitive, physical, and emotional recovery following cardiac surgery. Quality sleep promotes mental health, tissue repair, immune system function, and overall well-being. Conversely, lack of sleep or poor sleep can worsen post-surgical symptoms and hinder recovery.

Sleep Problems After Cardiac Surgery

Several factors can contribute to sleep problems after cardiac surgery:

  1. Anesthesia: Surgical anesthesia can disrupt standard sleep patterns and hormone levels, leading to fragmented and less restorative sleep.

  2. Pain: Post-operative pain can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleep position, resulting in sleep disturbances and reduced sleep quality.

  3. Medication: Certain medications prescribed after cardiac surgery can interfere with sleep, causing drowsiness or insomnia and impacting circadian rhythms as well as sleep duration and quality.

  4. Stress: The emotional and psychological stress associated with cardiac surgery can contribute to sleep difficulties, including insomnia and restless nights.

  5. Sleep Deficiency: Insufficient quality and quantity of sleep can impair decision-making, emotional regulation, problem-solving, and coping abilities. This can manifest as anger, impulsivity, lack of motivation, mood swings, and attention problems.

Strategies for Better Sleep

  1. Establish a Bedtime Routine: Create a relaxing routine before bed, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing gentle stretching exercises to signal your body that it's time to wind down. Getting to sleep at close to the same time each night is a valuable technique – that way the body gets used to a sleep pattern.

  2. Optimize Your Sleep Environment: Ensure your bedroom is calm, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows that support your post-operative needs. You can use light-blocking curtains and blinds to limit the amount of ambient light in the room. Some people like to use eye masks to maintain darkness.

  3. Manage Pain and Discomfort: Discuss effective pain management strategies, including medications or alternative therapies, with your healthcare provider to minimize discomfort during sleep.

  4. Follow Medication Guidelines: Take prescribed medications as directed and be aware of their potential impact on sleep. If you experience sleep disturbances, consult your doctor to explore possible adjustments.

  5. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques like deep breathing, guided imagery, or meditation to reduce stress and promote a calm state before sleep. Medical yoga therapy, including deep relaxation (Yoga Nidra) and adapted breathing exercises, can aid in improving sleep quality and returning to sleep after waking.

  6. Regular Exercise: Engage in light physical activity daily, with medical clearance, to regulate sleep patterns and promote better sleep quality. Consult your healthcare provider for appropriate post-operative exercise guidelines.

  7. Manage Stress Levels: Explore stress management techniques like mindfulness, counseling, or support groups to address emotional challenges associated with cardiac surgery. Medical yoga therapy offers strategies and tools to enhance relaxation and facilitate better sleep.

In addition to these strategies, maintaining a sleep diary can track sleep patterns and identify potential triggers or patterns affecting sleep. This information can help guide discussions with your healthcare provider.

Seeking Help

If sleep problems persist or worsen after cardiac surgery, it is essential to seek help from your healthcare provider. Maintain open communication regarding any concerns or difficulties you experience with sleep or other aspects of your recovery. Healthcare professionals can provide support and guidance and recommend complementary therapies to address your needs. They can evaluate your symptoms and offer targeted solutions.

Remember, the path to recovery is unique for everyone, so be patient with yourself and trust in the healing process.


Further Reading:


This blog is made available by the publisher for educational purposes; to provide general information and a general understanding of health issues (health psychology, behavioral health, medical yoga), and does not provide specific medical advice. By using this blog, you understand that there is no medical-client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent medical/clinical advice from a licensed professional clinician.


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