It’s been a big day – actually a huge day – and you can’t wait to crawl into bed. Your head hits the pillow and the wheels start turning. If you’re waiting for a transplant, you might start thinking about when you’ll get “the call” or if your living donor will follow through. If you’ve already received a transplant, your thoughts may be consumed by fears of flu bugs and missed medications. The weight of life as a transplant patient can feel especially heavy in these quiet moments when you’re alone with your thoughts.
Mayo Clinic recommends adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. This is especially true for patients pre- and post-transplant because lack of sleep can affect the immune system. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
As you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.
Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.
Stay healthy by adopting habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple sleep tips.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day may not seem like it would affect your quality of sleep, but it can. Being consistent reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. Here’s the caveat, though: if you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something relaxing and then go back to bed when you’re tired.
If you are struggling to get to sleep, you may have consumed food or beverages that are keeping you awake. If you drink caffeine, cut down or stop, or at a minimum, monitor the time of day you are consuming beverages that contain caffeine. Nicotine and alcohol can also affect sleep. Also, try to eat light in the evening to avoid being too hungry or too full when you lay down to sleep.
When you do the same tasks each night before bed, your body recognizes it’s time to wind down and sleep. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a warm bath or meditation, incorporate activities that relax you into your routine – and be consistent!
Create a room that makes you feel comfortable. This means finding the right temperature, darkening the room, and eliminating any unnecessary noises. Also make sure your pillow and bed are in good condition and the right type for you is important in creating your comfortable space.
Physical activity can improve your quality of sleep, but if you are energized from exercise, be sure to do it earlier in the day.
If you are thinking about your schedule and worries, you may not be able to fall asleep. Try making a list with your tasks to do the next day, and leave it in the kitchen. You can review it and plan your day while having a healthy breakfast.
If you need to nap during the day, try to limit the nap to 10-30 minutes. Longer naps later in the day can interfere with your nighttime sleep.
These are just a few ideas to help you have a more restful sleep so you can deal with all that life throws your way during the day. Do you have a trusted way you have improved your sleep? Tell us about it below!
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