What Causes Insomnia After Surgery And How to Get Over It?

Recuperating from surgery requires a good night’s sleep. There is some evidence that patients who obtain enough sleep in the hospital after surgery have improved cognitive, respiratory, immunological, and pain-tolerance functions.

Sleep problems are typical postoperative complaints. The bright lights and constant noise of hospitals can make it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. In addition, sleep disturbances can persist long after a patient returns home from surgery due to inflammation, persistent discomfort, and drugs used during and after the procedure.

It’s unfortunate because it usually occurs right after surgery when rest is most needed for healing.

You may be vulnerable if you spend the night in a hospital or medical institution instead of your bed. But all you need to do is replace your pillow or mattress. Or it could be a negative reaction to a recent medical procedure or medication.

In this piece, we’ll discuss the likely causes of postoperative insomnia and some ways to cope.

What Causes Insomnia After Surgery?

What Causes Insomnia After Surgery

Insomnia after surgery may result from discomfort, swelling, or adverse reactions to prescribed drugs. In addition, it can be difficult to sleep in a hospital because of the noise and bright lighting.

Insomniacs have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Chronic insomnia affects about 10–15% of the adult population. Insomnia is one of the most prevalent adult health issues. Still, many people also suffer from temporary periods of poor sleep.

Adjustment insomnia, or short-term insomnia, is characterized by a similar set of symptoms to chronic insomnia but is typically triggered by a more immediate source of stress, such as a recent job loss or upcoming medical treatment. Short-term insomnia usually disappears if the source of the stress is eliminated.

After an operation, only some have difficulties sleeping. The majority of ICU patients experience sleep difficulties during their stay. Major surgeries are more likely to cause serious sleep problems than minor ones. However, there are several causes for insomnia following surgery:

1. Frequent Awakenings

Frequent Awakenings

The hospital may take your blood pressure and temperature many times a day. Most hospitals also schedule their lab draws during the wee hours of the morning. To take your pills at the prescribed times, you should get up. In addition, you may have to get up early in the morning to participate in physical therapy or visit your doctor.

2. Inability to Regulate The Airway

Inability to Regulate The Airway

Snoring and sleep apnea (brief interruptions in breathing while sleeping) are common side effects of airway dysfunction. Surgery can exacerbate these conditions when you already have them. In addition, using narcotic pain relievers or extremely deep sleep brought on by tiredness can compromise airway control while you sleep.

3. Invasive Procedures

Invasive Procedures

Poor sleep quality is a common side effect of lengthy and complex surgical operations. In addition, longer hospital stays, closer monitoring by doctors, more medication, more anesthetic, and a more gradual return to normalcy are all factors in the prolonged aftermath of major surgical procedures.

4. Pain


It might be challenging to drift off to sleep when you’re in discomfort. Pain experienced as a result of sleep-related movement might disrupt otherwise restful slumber. When you are experiencing discomfort, it may be challenging to go to sleep and difficult for you to remain asleep during the night.

5. Morphine


It’s well-documented that morphine and other painkillers containing morphine can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Insomnia or “jitters” are a common negative effect of pain drugs, even though they can help reduce pain and facilitate sleep.

6. Steroids And Other Medication

Steroids And Other Medication

Steroids reduce inflammation, but they can make it hard to fall asleep. Steroid medicine used first thing in the morning may help with this. However, many medications, including pain relievers, might make you sleepy even though you’d rather be alert.

7. Monitoring Devices

Monitoring Devices

You can have electrodes attached to your chest for a heart monitor, a finger prick for an oxygen sensor, an intravenous catheter in your arm, and a drainage tube in your incision for fluid removal. These could leave you feeling like you’re attempting to sleep while trapped in a net.

8. Noise


In general, hospitals may be rather loud environments. It may sound like a marching band is playing through the halls if you’re having difficulties going to sleep or staying asleep. In addition, your IV pump can start beeping at inopportune times, and your roommate might be a chronic snorer.

9. Experiencing Both Hunger And Thirst

Experiencing Both Hunger And Thirst

You might find that the inability to satisfy your hunger or thirst is unpleasant enough to keep you awake if you’re not allowed to eat.

10. Room Temperature

Room Temperature

While some hospitals provide individual room thermostats, many do not. As a result, a warm hospital room may make it harder for you to fall asleep if you are used to sleeping in a cooler environment.

11. Light


It may be hard to get to sleep if there is a lot of light around you, such as in hospital halls, parking lots outside your window, or even at night.

12. Elevated Stress Hormones

Elevated Stress Hormones

Getting surgery is a mentally and physically draining ordeal for the patient. The body may react by creating additional stress hormones, which will make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Tips For Dealing With Postoperative Insomnia

You may have trouble sleeping at any point throughout your recovery. Still, it’s more common in the days and weeks after surgery. For example, one study found that 48 percent of patients who reported having trouble sleeping the night after surgery blamed pain.

What can you do to get better sleep after surgery? Here are some tips to help you get better rest after surgery and deal with insomnia anytime during your recovery.

1. Try Out Different Sleeping Positions Until You Find One That Works For You

Try Out Different Sleeping Positions Until You Find One That Works For You

There is no “right” way to sleep after surgery; it depends on the incision site and procedure. However, after medical procedures, many people report that getting into the habit of lying on their back helps relieve postoperative insomnia.

This is because your neck and head may relax in a more natural position, and you won’t have to worry about putting any strain on the incision.

Finding a sleeping position that works for you is vital. Maintaining a flexed knee position relieves stress on the lower back. It is recommended for persons who have undergone back surgery. Put pillows between your knees for more support after hip surgery.

Prevent sleeping on your stomach at all costs; the extra weight and strain on your neck and spine is just one more thing that could be contributing to your insomnia.

2. Breathe Deeply

Breathe Deeply

Relax your body and mind with some deep breathing techniques. Meditation involves training one’s attention on breathing to relieve stress and anxiety.

To begin, bring your attention to your nose and take a slow, deep breath through it for a count of four. Hold that breath for the same amount of time. Next, breathe out with your mouth for a full six counts. If it’s not working, try again, this time going more slowly.

3. Relax And Get Ready For Bed

Relax And Get Ready For Bed

A good night’s sleep can be aided by engaging in activities that promote calm and relaxation, just as they can be in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Dimming the lights, playing soothing music, taking a warm bath or shower, and enjoying a cup of chamomile tea are all good options.

Having a regular bedtime is another key factor in creating a restful sleep environment. In doing so, you help maintain a healthy rhythm within your body.

4. Improve Your Bedroom For Better Sleep

Improve Your Bedroom For Better Sleep

Don’t let electrical devices inside your bedroom; make sure it’s nice and dark before you turn in.

If you have difficulties falling asleep, a sleep mask and earplugs will help block out the light and noise. Be sure to consult with your care team regarding any potential adjustments you may want to make to the way you sleep.

5. Adjust Your Medication

Adjust Your Medication

After any kind of surgery, you should expect some pain or discomfort. If you need to take pain medication, try to take it no later than 30 minutes before bedtime so that you may relax and get some rest.

Zolpidem, melatonin, and dexmedetomidine are some drugs shown to help facilitate sleep in the days following surgery. Make sure your doctor approves of these choices.

6. Share Your Worries

Share Your Worries

Anyone would be understandably scared or worried about recuperating after surgery or just spending time in a hospital.

The need for caregiving, a shift in income, a pause in employment, or a complete upheaval of one’s lifestyle are some of the additional concerns that may arise. But you don’t have to manage them on your own.

Dispel your worries by sharing them with someone you care about or can trust. You may also request to speak with the on-call psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, chaplain, or other mental health professional while in the hospital.

How Long Does Insomnia Last Following Surgery?

How Long Does Insomnia Last Following Surgery

The time you have trouble sleeping after surgery depends on the operation’s complexity and whether you’ll need to stay in the hospital overnight for postoperative care. Still, in most cases, insomnia will pass quickly.

How long it takes for insomnia to resolve completely after surgery varies from person to person. However, in most cases, you should anticipate that your symptoms will begin to improve within a week.

Sleep disruptions after major surgeries are more common than those from minor ones. In addition, staying overnight in the hospital for any medical treatment increases the likelihood that you may have trouble sleeping.

An occasional occurrence of postoperative insomnia might develop into long-term sleeplessness. One example is how a person’s sleep routine can deteriorate after medical procedures that cause disruptions in normal sleep patterns.

Wrapping Up

Surgery often results in a period of sleep disturbances. Various things influence your capacity to achieve a restful night’s sleep. First, the medical setting’s loudness, interruptions, or discomfort is to blame. Possible problems include difficulty breathing or pain that keeps you awake at night.

If you experience any difficulties falling asleep, tell your doctor. Whether you need to try a different drug or alter your sleeping environment, they can assist you in finding a cure.

How well you sleep may be greatly improved by adopting healthy habits. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is essential, as is avoiding stimulants and strenuous activity before sleeping. If these simple approaches don’t work, you can always try a sleep aid like melatonin.

Recuperating from medical procedures or staying in the hospital requires a lot of restful sleep. Restorative sleep is an important self-care practice since it facilitates recovery and calms anxious thoughts. A person who has gotten enough sleep will also be better able to handle recovery challenges.

Sarah Wagner

I'm Sarah Wagner, and I founded Sweet Island Dreams in 2022. It's a blog dedicated to helping people mental vacation virtually anytime they want. By providing information about the best sleep of your life, I help people drift away to paradise without ever having to leave their bed!