A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus from the female body. The operation can also involve the removal of the cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that each year there are an estimated 600,000 hysterectomies performed in the United States. As the patient recovers, however, sleep can be difficult to obtain.
Depending on the type of hysterectomy performed, recovery can take from two to eight weeks. During recovery women are advised not to lift anything heavier than a piece of paper, limit activities and get plenty of rest. Pain killers that induce sleep will normally be prescribed immediately after the surgery. Yet, it is advised that the patient be weaned from pain killers as soon as possible after the surgery so that an addiction does not develop.
What Can Affect Sleep
The type of hysterectomy performed will directly affect sleep because, for example, an abdominal hysterectomy will result in the patient having bandages covering incisions on the abdomen, while a vaginal hysterectomy will result in the patient recovering from vaginal incisions. Catheters are also commonly used during the initial hospital stay in order to ensure that the bladder remains empty. Therefore, bandages, incisions and a catheter will affect how the patient is capable of moving, or positioning herself while sleeping.
Sleep position may also be affected by a greater than normal gas build up in the bowels, which will ease over time with proper diet and an increase of physical movement while the body heals.
For women who have had ovaries removed, sleep may be affected by the onset of menopause, with hot flashes and hormone imbalances that can be treated by a physician.
Because so many factors may affect sleep in women following a hysterectomy, sleep positions that aid the patient in resting comfortably will be dependent on the individual. Many women elect to use a heating pad either on the abdomen or back, or both, positioning themselves so that they receive the greatest warmth from the device on the areas of the body that ache. Heating pads must be used with caution because excessive heat on the skin can cause burns and the possibility of cords shorting out during sleep can lead to fires.
Some post-hysterectomy patients have found that sleeping in the fetal position, on one side, with the legs curled up toward the chest is beneficial. Other patients have indicated that sleeping in the fetal position, with a pillow between the knees, offers even greater comfort.
For women that are undergoing hormone replacement therapy due to the removal of ovaries, the positioning of the body during sleep is not as significant as the need to ensure that the room remains cool at bedtime, that there is no consumption of caffeine products before sleep and that heavy meals are avoided prior to going to bed.