News & Blog

The Role of Sleep in Successful Surgery and Pain Reduction

Apr 29, 2024

The importance of sleep can sometimes get overlooked around the time of surgery. Whether you are anxious about the procedure itself or just have less time to dedicate to your sleeping routine, sleep can sometimes be a last priority.

My role at Surgery Hero can include supporting our patients to manage their sleep before, during and after surgery, helping them get back to normal life as quickly as possible. This blog outlines the reasons why we consider sleep an essential part of the perioperative journey, and if you are struggling, some handy tips to help you get back to a good night’s rest!

So, why is sleep pivotal for a speedy recovery?

Good quality sleep is something we should try to prioritise as much as possible, especially in the weeks running up to your operation and during your recovery phase.

Optimal Healing
Quality sleep plays a pivotal role in the body’s natural healing processes. Adequate rest helps tissues repair and rejuvenate, aiding a smoother recovery post-surgery.

Reduced Stress Levels
Adequate sleep contributes to lower stress levels, essential for a calm and collected mindset before undergoing a surgical procedure and managing pain. It helps manage anxiety and promotes a positive mental state.

Minimised Anaesthetic Risks
Adequate sleep contributes to a healthier cardiovascular system, reducing the risks associated with anaesthesia during surgery. It’s an essential factor in ensuring a smoother and safer surgical experience.

Improved Pain Tolerance
Research has shown consistently that people who are sleep deprived are more likely to experience higher levels of pain. A well-rested body is better equipped both physically and emotionally to manage pain. If you are in post op recovery this makes things much more manageable.

Top tips if you are struggling

While rest is crucial for the healing process, the aftermath of surgery can introduce a variety of factors that make achieving quality sleep a significant struggle for many people. Pain, medication side effects and change of routine can all contribute to sleep struggles. This is completely normal and the reassuring thing is it will get better with time. Many of the patients I work with report their sleep improves dramatically after the first couple of weeks of surgery.

If you are having issues sleeping, here are some things that may help you get a more restful sleep if you are experiencing pain and discomfort:

Comfort is key
Consider whether the bed is supportive. Are the pillows suitable? It’s important to be comfortable in bed to help recovery. Trying different positions is also important for comfort post-surgery and to help get better sleep. Many people find bed pillow wedges and body pillows effective. Trial what works for you.

Adhere to your medication
It needs to be taken at the optimum time to support sleep. Remember that pain medication is unlikely to make it go away completely. It can get it to a tolerable/manageable level. This is important especially after surgery.

Relax your pain away
Try breathing techniques such as the 4,7,8 technique or mindfulness. You could listen to soothing music, calm audio books or meditation podcasts.

Napping is normal!
There may be a need to sleep during the day for recovery. This is normal. If possible, try to nap earlier in the day. Stick to either a short power nap (20-30 minutes) or aim for a full 90-minute sleep cycle.

Avoid nesting
Reduce the time spent in bed during recovery. It can be helpful to have a separate resting place during the day. This avoids “nesting” in bed. This can create negative associations with bed and sleep and reduces the feelings of needing to sleep at bedtime

For more information and advice, visit The Sleep Charity at or contact us on

By Charlotte Housden, Health Coach at Surgery Hero