A knee replacement places an enormous amount of physical stress on the body. It can take weeks to get back on your feet and a year or longer to feel as though you’re fully functioning again. Often overlooked during the recovery and rehabilitation process is the fact that a knee replacement can dramatically affect your state of mind. Sleep problems and depression, for example, aren’t unusual.
Insomnia and Sleep Problems
You are likely to experience some insomnia—particularly following surgery and after you return home from the hospital. You may benefit by taking an herbal sleep aid such as melatonin or drinking chamomile tea. Other relaxation methods like mediation, ear plugs, white noise, or a sleep mask over your eyes might also help. If the problem persists, consult with your doctor. He or she may prescribe a more powerful sleep aid medication. Take sleep aids 30 minutes before bedtime. Be aware that some prescription sleep aids can be habit forming.
Pain and discomfort may also contribute to sleep problems. Take prescription pain medication 30 minutes before bed as well. In addition, try propping your knee or an ankle on a pillow and/or covering the knee with an extra blanket to keep it warm while you sleep.
Many knee replacement patients experience some depression following surgery. This is frequently a result of discomfort, the lack of mobility, and increased dependency on others. It may also be due to medications you’re taking. In most cases, this mild depression will lift as you recover and resume activities. During this time it’s wise to rely on your support system of family and friends. They can help you maintain a positive outlook and remind you that this situation is temporary. Board games, reading, and watching movies can all help pass the time.
Symptoms of depression include a persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness. You may find that you’ve lost interest or you are unable to participate in previously enjoyable activities. As a result, you may withdraw from interaction with others. Other telltale signs include a loss of appetite or dramatically increased eating, radical mood swings, diminished interest in sex and a higher level of anxiety or irritability.
If the feelings of depression persist, visit your doctor and discuss what you’re experiencing. One study found that pain and depression negatively influence the outcome of knee replacement surgery five years later. In the end, your ability to heal physically is heavily dependent on a healthy mental state.