Catching Zzzs for Those with CHDs
8/13/2014 9:13 AM
By Christy Sillman
Sleep is incredibly important to our health. Without a solid 7-10 hours of sleep a night we’re cheating our bodies of the renewal process necessary to keep our body in an optimal state. Many CHDers tell me that they struggle nightly with getting their Zzzs.
There can many factors as to why we can have trouble sleeping—orthopnea (shortness of breath when lying flat), acute or chronic pain (from surgeries), anxiety/depression/PTSD, obstructive sleep apnea, and certain medications can inhibit melatonin production—the natural chemical that helps us sleep.
Don’t suffer from insomnia in silence. If you suspect that you may be dealing with any of the issues listed above, I encourage you to discuss your concerns with your medical team managing these issues to see if there are studies, medication adjustments, or sleep aids they can prescribe.
Here are some healthy sleep habit tips I have found helpful:
- Create a sleep routine: Anyone who has children or has cared for children knows bed time routine is important. We also need to signal our bodies that it’s time to sleep. A glass of warm milk, a relaxing bath, washing your face/brushing your teeth – however you design your nightly ritual the key is keeping it routine.
- Avoid overstimulation: TV, cell phones, iPads, and gaming – many people “unwind” through technology, but that screen exposure is actually waking your brain up and can perpetuate the “awake state.” Try turning off all screens 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime and find comfort in a good book, writing in a journal, or listening to soft music.
- Evaluate your sleeping environment. Is the fan too loud? Is there a neighbor making too much noise? Do you have a snoring bedmate? See what environmental factors you can control to create a serene sleeping environment.
- Eat a light snack before bedtime, and explore sleepy time teas. There’s nothing worse than a growling stomach to disturb your dreams.
- Keep a notepad by your bed stand. Doing a mental “dump” on a notepad of things you need to remember, things you’re worried about, or to-do lists can help clear your mind so you can peacefully fall asleep.
- Explore meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness activities, which can help to promote a relaxed state of mind.
After years of working night shifts, having a young child, taking medications, and experiencing anxiety, I know insomnia all too well. It’s easy to forget how important sleep is to our health, especially our heart health, but it really is the key to helping us get to the best state of wellbeing we can achieve.
Do you have any other sleepy time tips or rituals you want to share? Any funny insomnia stories to entertain us with?
Christy Sillman was born with tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. She is a wife, mother, writer, and the nurse coordinator at The Adult Congenital Heart Program at Stanford. Christy also co-coordinates a pilot ACHD support group through Mended Little Hearts called Surviving CHD. She is passionate about educating, advocating, and advancing the field of adult congenital heart care.
1 comment(s) so far...
By James April on
8/13/2014 10:02 AM
Re: Catching Zzzs for Those with CHDs
Christy, thank you for your tips. I noticed on my own I've been trying to wind down earlier and earlier because I do suffer from anxiety worries etc. And being a person with CHD and adult I know its extra important. I have also tried sleep hypnosis videos on You Tube for those extra hard nights where its hard to sleep. But sometimes they don't work But I hope the information you shared on Facebook will help me establish a better routine. Thanks again,