Trouble sleeping after a heart attack | Marie Young Psychologist
Sleep is a big challenge. It’s a challenge for most of us actually, even when something hasn’t changed with our health. And we know that a lot of people have problems with their sleep. When something major happens to your health like having a heart event, having a heart attack, it’s quite common for people to leave hospital and already start to notice that they’re having difficulty with their sleep, and for a lot of people that will get better once they’re home and in their more normal routine and in their own familiar surroundings, but for some people they’ll find that that problem persists. I think it’s helpful to think about all the different things that can contribute to problems with sleep if that’s what you’re having. Firstly there’s your background. Are you normally someone who sleeps well. and if you were having problems before you had a heart event then, that is likely to continue or maybe be even made worse. I think it’s important to recognise the contribution of just going to hospital and what that has as a contribution to problems with sleep. Hospitals are not places you actually go to rest. As you reflect on your experience, you’ll probably realise that when you go there, you don’t get to go to bed at 10:30 at night and wake up at 6 – 6:30 naturally, in fact, when you try to go to sleep you’ll notice that through the night you’re being woken up, often for checks or medication administration, and even if you’re able to sleep you’ll probably be woken up by someone else, who’s having their checks or medication or they’re coughing or they’re snoring, so pretty quickly within a night or two of being in hospital, often your sleep routine is completely out. What that leads to is trying to catch little snippets of sleep in the day. So maybe around 9:30 you’re able to sleep for an hour while you’re in hospital and certainly you need that, you need to catch up on that sleep and help your body heal and recover. What that can mean though is that by the time you go home, you’re in a really disrupted sleep routine and so when you do try to go to bed at night your body’s not used to it. The other thing I think to bear in mind is, if you’ve been in hospital even for just a few nights, again those muscles start to waste a little bit, to de-condition and that means that when you do get home, you’re probably a bit drained of energy and when you do try to use those muscles, they’re going to fatigue or be tired much sooner than they normally would. Then if you add into that, you’re probably on a whole bunch of medications now, so when you add that into the mix, your body’s got to get used to that as well, so there’s so much that’s happened, it’s so common to have those problems with sleep. One of the things that I recommend is, when you get home, if after a short period of time, or whether it’s a week or two or three weeks down the track, and you’re not sleeping well at night, have a look at what you’re doing in the day and particularly when it comes to napping. When you come out of hospital, you may well need those naps in the day, those rest periods as your body and your heart heals and recovers. The difficult thing about napping though, is if you’re having a nap, particularly after lunch time, it’s kind of stealing it from the night and you’re unlikely to be sleeping as well at night if you’re having a nap in the day. So one of the things I would say is, if you really feel you can’t do away with that nap yet, see if you can move it to earlier in the day and then it’s less likely to affect you at night.