Sleep After Gallbladder Removal: Tips For Getting Shut-Eye After Surgery

Gallbladder removal surgery is the main treatment for painful gallstones, as well as infection or inflammation in the gallbladder or pancreas. The procedure can be performed as an open surgery or minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. Either way, it’s a relatively minor surgery with short recovery times.

Even with minimally invasive surgery, you may have some trouble drifting off to sleep after gallbladder removal. Tossing and turning is frustrating when you’re at full health. When you’re recovering from surgery, insomnia can make you downright miserable.

Good sleep is essential for having a healthy recovery after gallbladder removal surgery, so we put together some tips and techniques to help you get some rest during the days and weeks following your procedure. 

What prevents sleep after gallbladder removal surgery?

Sleep trouble is common after any surgery, especially abdominal surgery. The first few days after having your gallbladder removed, you may experience trouble sleeping due to:

  • Bloating or pressure in your abdomen. During open and laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, a surgeon pumps air into the abdominal cavity so they can easily see and reach the gallbladder. After the surgery, some of the gas can get trapped in your abdomen. This can cause bloating, sharp pain, or discomfort as the excess gas presses against your surgery incisions. 
  • Pain from your incisions. You may feel some pain or stinging around your incisions as they heal, especially if you had open gallbladder surgery.
  • Insomnia from the anesthesia. Some people experience trouble falling asleep after having surgery under general anesthesia. This generally goes away within a few days.
  • Inability to fall asleep in a new sleep position. After your surgery, your provider will probably advise sleeping on your back or left side. If you’re not used to sleeping in those positions, you may have trouble getting comfortable enough to fall asleep.
  • Stress or anxiety about your operation or recovery. Any surgery can lead to anxiety or stress during recovery, which can make it hard to fall asleep.

Discomfort from your surgery should start lessening within a few days, and you should be back to your normal sleep habits by two weeks after your surgery. Still, you can always reach out to your healthcare provider if symptoms are keeping you up at night. They may be able to give you medication or advice to help lessen your pain and make it easier to sleep.

Getting better sleep after gallbladder surgery

Getting enough sleep can help your body recover after your surgery. Here are some things you can try to get some shut-eye having your gallbladder removed:

  • Sleep on your back or left side. Your incisions will be on the right front side of your abdomen. So, sleeping on your back or left side can help reduce pain and irritation around the incision site, making it easier to fall and stay asleep.
  • Take prescription or over-the-counter pain medication. Your provider will prescribe oral pain medication or give you guidelines on taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicines, like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Take the dose a couple of hours before you go to bed to help keep pain from keeping you up at night. (Note: Sometimes, pain medication can lead to insomnia. So, make sure to ask your provider about the best times to take your medicine for a good night’s sleep.)
  • Plan your recovery diet. Your body can digest foods just fine without a gallbladder, but it may take a little bit for your digestive system to adjust to the change. After your surgery, you’ll want to avoid big meals and high-fat foods in the evening to decrease your chances of having stomach discomfort or gas while you’re trying to sleep. Instead, try eating frequent small meals during the day. Limit alcohol and caffeine, especially in the evening. And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
  • Make your bedroom a recovery oasis. You’ll have more luck falling asleep in a clean, made bed. Blackout curtains, moisture-wicking sheets, extra pillows, noise-canceling ear plugs, and eye masks may also help combat post-surgery insomnia. Make sure your home isn’t too hot or too cold before you lay down. And stock your nightstand with water and anything else you need so you don’t have to get up again after you lay down for the night.

Self-care for post-surgery insomnia

Insomnia can take a toll on your physical and mental health, but making a few lifestyle changes during the day can help you feel better and make it easier to sleep at night. First, try to get physical activity during the day, as recommended by your provider. Of course, you’ll need to take things easy (no running or weightlifting!) at first. However, taking brief walks around your home throughout the day can help promote blood flow, aid healing, and relieve bloating, all of which can help you feel better and more comfortable when you lie down to sleep.

Next, you can start to prepare your mind and body for sleep before you’re ready to go to bed. To let your brain know it’s time to slow down or get some rest, try out these tips an hour or two before you lie down:

  • Avoid electronics, such as phones, televisions, and tablets.
  • Use your favorite essential oils or candles to fill your home with relaxing scents.
  • Relax your body and mind with deep breathing, meditation, reading, or journaling.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Dim the lights in your home. (Pro tip: Open the curtains and let in bright sunlight during the day to make this contrast to nighttime even more powerful.)

Sleep may be difficult after gallbladder removal surgery, but with these tips, you’ll be off to dreamland before you know it. Your medical team can also be a great resource when you have questions during recovery. If you need help finding an experienced surgeon you can trust, our Patient Assist Care Coordinators can help. We work with a network of healthcare providers to connect patients like you with top surgeons who believe in charging fair prices for medical procedures. Click here to learn more about our Gallbladder Surgery Assistance Program and request a free quote today!

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New Choice Health, Inc.
(850) 898-1410
3 W Garden St. STE 206
Pensacola, FL 32502