Problems with sleep

Since coming out of ICU I've suffered badly with being able to get a decent nights sleep, I was in an induced coma during my stay. There seems to be a link between this and sleeping problems. Has anyone else had a similar problem sleeping ? Has anyone been able to find a solution ? I only seem to get about 3 hours of actual sleep a night, the rest is cap napping really

10 Replies

  • Hi Nick,

    I've had problems sleeping ever since I came out of ICU six years ago, and can probably count on one hand the number of times I've had a decent nights sleep since discharge, it usually 3-4 hours then my brain starts racing away often about irrelevant things also now I'm a very light sleeper with the slightest noise waking me up, I've tried most things like milky drinks before bed, listening to music at a low volume & herbal sleeping tablets (I avoid prescribed sleeping pills) but nothing works for me.

    I believe it is a common problem trying to get a normal sleep pattern back, but by avoiding sleeping during the day or drinking any stimulants after 7pm is supposed to help, also having the bedroom slightly cooler can help, I think it's just a case of what works for one may not work for another.


  • Hi Bill,

    Listening to audio books can help sometimes, sleeping pills render me completely useless the followind day and sometimes dont work at all, so I steer clear of pills.

    Yes my mind is over running but my boy is exhausted, sometimes I find having a dim light on can help as well.

    I keep my window ajara all the time as it helps with my breathing anyway. I actually sleep better on the train in the morning, I must look a right mess by the time I get to work, no one says anything though !


  • Nick

    I think this is very common. It was explained to me that whilst you appear to be asleep in a coma, you are not. Your body is constantly awake and undergoing invasive treatment, so once out of the coma your sleep pattern needs a major reset. Add to this catheterisation and your bladder needs to re-expand which means getting up a lot in the middle of the night to go to the loo. I spent 5 weeks in ICU and it was a good 3 - 4 months before I had my first full night's sleep during recovery. But I sleep fine now. So there is hope! But like everything, it takes time. I agree with others that you should look to good sleep "practice" to help. No coffee or tea in the afternoon / evening, try to stop watching TV an hour before bed etc. And if you can, no alcohol! On the plus side, I got through a lot of books ....

  • In ICU, and hospital generally, the normal human circadian rythm is completely disrupted by the nursing shift system (staff changeovers at 4.00am) and the general noise, alarm beepers, etc., on the ward. Turning out or lowering the lights at midnight just to turn them back on at 4.00 or 6.00am isn't helpful. Its no wonder patients sleep patterns are disturbed. There doesn't seem to be a solution, sleep when you can. Good luck and best wishes for a full recovery. David.

  • Hi Nick In February 2016 I was in an induced coma for 3 weeks. Since then I have had sleep problems mainly due to nightmares which focus around the morgue. I also sometimes awake with a start as if there has been a loud noise but there hasn't been. I recently got a fitness tracker to help with my recovery and it logs my restful sleep at around 3/3.5 hours a night.

    I put lavender oil on my pillow, read from my kindle, don't drink anything after 8pm and try to stay calm. If I worry about my sleep it doesn't help. It seems to be a common issue for a lot of people after a stay in ICU so I would try not to stress about it as this will only make matters worse. I would try different helpers e.g. reading, a bath, lavender oil etc and see if anything helps. If something helps even a little stick with it and hopefully your sleep will gradually improve.

    Although I'm still having problems sleeping it is better than it was initially. I think we underestimate the trauma we have been through and unfortunately all aspects of our recovery take time.

    Healing thoughts from Lesley-Anne

  • Here's a little get to sleep trick I was taught, it's going to sound silly but bare with me, can't hurt to try. When it's time to go to sleep, (helps if you have good pictorial imagination), first thing is take all your worries and concerns , put them in boxes and set them aside, o a high shelf, you don't need them just now, you have something more important to do. Imagine a door, it's half open and there's a brightly lit street outside. Inside is a little darker but gentle light is coming from somewhere. You look down and the floor of checkered black and white tile is flooded, not deep, just a 1/2", but it makes the tile pattern wobble, the water has to go. So you imagine a broom, one of those soft wide push brooms made specially for sweeping water. When you breath in work your imaginary elbows and withdraw the broom, when you breath out push the broom and the water out the door. Look down, still more water, you want to see the patterned tile straight again. Withdraw the broom on the in breath and push on the out. Repeat as needed, beats counting sheep, sleep well. (y)

  • Hi Nick, we are so sorry that you are having these troubles. Being sleep deprived is horrible, it makes even the simple tasks seem near imp[ossible.

    My wife Ally is having the same problem, cannot sleep. She has been out of her induced coma for almost a month and is yet to have a good nights sleep. Ally is so afraid that if she falls asleep, she won't wake up. Her fear is so strong, that even when the doctors give her sleep medicine or try to sedate her she gets a max of 2 hours. The doctors will say, m" OK, now this should allow her to have a good nights sleep". An hour or 2 later she starts to move around and then within 3 hours her eyes are open.

    So Nick, Ally is right there with you in the "No Good Nights Sleep After Induced Coma Club". Like Nick asked. Does anyone have any solutions or tricks that worked for them?

    You are not alone Nick!!!


    Ally & Marc

  • Thank you all for your kinds words of support, some great suggestions here.

    So my new routine, no caffeine after 7pm, limit liquid consumption nearing bedtime, relaxing bath before bed. Window left open a notch for some fresh air. No watching TV in bed.

    Well so far no difference to my sleeping patterns but its too early to tell if its helped, but I'll keep at it.

    My partner says I during the night I often stop breathing which then wakes me up with a start, so looks lke thats the next thing to ask my Doctors about.

    I hope you all have a good day :)


  • Hi Nick,

    Ally and Marc again. It sounds like you now have sleep apnea. There are a few different causes with many different treatments. My mom had severe sleep apnea. It caused her to have very poor sleeps at night. Which in turn made her very tired all day and she required naps. She went and did a sleep study and it was recommended she get a CPAP machine. The CPAP is a machine that continually blows air down your throat all night. You wear a small mask that covers your nose and mouth. It took her awhile to get used to, but it had amazing results. She wakes totally energized, has energy all day and no need for naps anymore. There are other options also. Sometimes it can be cured with a simple mouth guard, like some people wear for rugby or hockey.

    Good luck and keep us informed please. Thank you for the other tips, Ally will try them.

    Ally and Marc

  • Just seen the post I was in ICU for 32 days in 2008 and induced coma 12 days I have not slept well since. The first six months I had to get out of bed as soon as I woke. I got a cheap heart monitor watch which also does sleep and I average 3 hours broken sleep a night :(

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