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November 27, 2017
If you’re scheduled for an operation in a hospital or a major dental procedure that involves severe pain, you will likely be “put to sleep” before the surgeons begin their work. This term refers to general anesthesia, which places you in an unconscious state and prevents your body from reacting immediately to the stress of the operation. This means that your blood pressure won’t rise dramatically, your breathing will remain in control, and you will remain motionless and calm so that the surgical team can do their work without interruption.
This is referred to as sleep because your eyes are closed and you are in a sleep-like state, but it isn’t the same as a normal night of rest. You are essentially in a coma that is reversible. You are completely unconscious and are unresponsive to your surrounding environment. You don’t know what is happening around you, and you won’t remember anything that happened during that period of time when you wake up.
If you want to understand the difference between the sleep that you receive at home and the rest that you enjoy while being put to sleep with anesthesia, it all comes down to your level of awareness.
When you go to sleep at home, you still have enough awareness to connect with your surrounding environment. If someone walks into your bedroom and stands over you, there’s a good chance that you’re going to sense their presence and wake up.
When put to sleep with anesthesia, you lose that awareness. Doctors and nurses are going to walk into the room and stand over your bed, and you’re not going to acknowledge their presence. This is the only way that you could make it through medical and dental procedures that involve intense pain or invasive procedures. This loss of awareness is also why you aren’t likely to dream or enjoy a restorative period of rest while you’re put under. Surgeries that require general anesthesia are traumatic on the body, so they are more likely to leave you drained of energy than well rested. This is why most people need to sleep after waking up from surgery.
There is always the risk that you will have an allergic reaction to the medication used to put you to sleep. This is the same risk that you face every time that you take a new medication. When you wake up, you may face one or more of the following side effects of anesthesia:
You can also expect to be tired when you get out of surgery. Remember, the coma state isn’t the same as a good snooze back home.
Thinking of your sleep state as a reversible coma that may come with serious side effects can be discomforting. The best way to prepare for your operation is to ask your doctor a lot of questions so that you understand what is going to happen and why.
And after your procedure, may sure to get a lot of good “normal sleep” while you recover.