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Anesthesia

Does Anesthesia Cause Me to Stay Awake?

01/15/2009

Question:

After I had major surgery, I had a period of time in which I had trouble staying awake. I would have time in the day while at work or at home that I would just fall asleep,like I was narcoleptic. Is this normal? Does anethesia cause this type of problem in others?

Answer:

General anesthesia does disturb normal sleep during the first few days after anesthesia. But after a few days we expect the normal sleep pattern to be restored. The picture though is often confused by the use of other drugs with sedating properties - like strong pain-killers. There is also the process of repair and recovery from the surgical procedure itself, which can take a long time and be extremely draining physically and psychologically. So fatigue, which might be expected for a few weeks after major surgery, may account for your sleepiness.

Daytime sleepiness is one of the main features of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a common but under-diagnosed condition. Patients with OSA have frequent spells of obstructed breathing during sleep, accompanied by frequent arousal, and a sense of having not had a good night's sleep. The pain medicines used after surgery can make sleep apnea worse. If your symptoms persist you might check with your doctor to find out whether you have OSA.

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Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University