By Christy Sillman
13 Aug

Catching Zzzs for Those with CHDs

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

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?

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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.