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There are a lot of pluses to getting a joint replacement, namely, less pain and improved mobility. But it can understandably be tough getting sleep during the first few nights after your surgery. You’re in pain. You can’t roll around to get comfortable. You might even be on a medication that’s keeping you awake. When you do finally fall asleep, chances are it isn’t all that restful. (Read more about why it’s tough to sleep after surgery.)
The thing is, surgery leaves you exhausted, and a good night’s sleep is crucial to getting you on the road to recovery. While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have the best sleep of your life the night after surgery, there are a few things you can do to help you sleep sounder and feel more rejuvenated in the morning.
You should avoid caffeine before bed every night of the week, but it’s especially important post-surgery. Caffeine is a stimulant that makes you feel temporarily alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. It also ramps up adrenaline production, which can start your mind racing.
Drifting off to sleep is easier when you’re in the right frame of mind for it—not when your brain is busy replaying the events of the day or buzzing about what to expect from physical therapy tomorrow. Read a book, listen to music, meditate, sip a mug of herbal tea in bed—whatever makes you feel calm and relaxed.
You’re probably used to watching a rerun of your favorite sitcom or scrolling through Instagram before you turn off your bedside lamp. While those activities might help you kick back, they can also keep you from having a restful night. It turns out that the blue light emitted by cell phones, tablets, computers, and TVs can trick your body into producing less melatonin, the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm, which makes it harder to get to sleep on. If there’s ever a night where you don’t want to be tossing and turning, it’s when you’re recovering from surgery.
No matter how serene you’re feeling, pain is the reality of life after surgery. You’ll definitely leave the hospital with a superscription for painkillers, which you should definitely take if you need them. Unfortunately, opioids, which are commonly used for pain after surgery, can prevent you from reaching REM sleep, the most rejuvenating stage of sleep. Ambien or melatonin supplements can help you get to sleep and increase your ability to reach a deep slumber. Benadryl might also help for a night or two. Talk to your doctor about which sleep aids are safe to take with your prescription so you’re prepared ahead of time.