Sleep Apnea

After Surgery Instructions for Sleep Apnea or for Those at High Risk of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which an individual’s air passage will narrow or close when at sleep. This stops the flow of oxygen through the lungs to vital organs such as the heart, brain, and kidneys. If you have received these instructions from Boulder Neurosurgical & Spine Associates, you have been identified as having sleep apnea or having a high risk of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can worsen with the stress of surgery, need for narcotic pain medications and lingering anesthesia.

To decrease the risk from sleep apnea as you recover from your surgery at home we recommend:

  • Avoid sleeping on your back and sleep on your side or sitting up in a recliner, or on a heap of pillows.
  • Avoid alcohol or sedating medications. Use the smallest amount of narcotic pain medications you need. Use non-narcotic pain medications instead such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen if your surgeon allows those medications after your surgery. Be careful not to take too much acetaminophen in a day and consider that many medications contain acetaminophen. Three grams (two pills containing 500 mg each, take every eight hours) is the maximum recommended daily amount for normal adults.
  • If you have one, use your CPAP/BiPAP machine or airway appliance any time you are sleeping or resting until you are off all narcotics.
  • Have a dependable adult stay with you for at least three days (and nights) after surgery or until you are off narcotic medications. The person should be close enough to you so they can wake you up if you are having breathing difficulties while sleeping such as very loud snoring, pauses in your breathing, unusual restlessness or moving about.
  • Call your doctor if you or your caregiver is concerned about your breathing while sleeping.