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Severe Burns and Sleep Disturbance (part II)

Treatment of sleep disturbance associated with severe burns:

Treatment may not be easy, there are different types of treatment strategies. Your physician or the burn team may ask you questions regarding your sleep habits in the past and factors that affect your sleep. Factors that affect the treatment type are:

  • What caused the sleep disturbance.
  • What is the type of sleep disturbance.
  • What is the severity of sleep disturbance.
  • What is the recovery stage of the patient.

Treatment types:

A- Non pharmacological treatment: in this type of treatment no medications are used. This includes:

1- Keep a regular sleep schedule and a good sleep hygiene : This may include

  • Practicing to decrease naps during the daytime as they interfere with the pattern of sleep. If you must nap, do it in the early afternoon, at the same time daily and not lasting more than 30-60 minutes.
  • Setting a regular bedtime and wake up at the same time every day.
  • If you have been awake for 15 minutes and have difficulty in falling a sleep, try getting out of bed and doing something non stimulating such as listening to music or reading a book. Avoid screens of any type such as computer, I pad and TV as the brain is stimulated by the type of light they emit.
  • Cutting down on caffeine which is a stimulant that can be found in coffee, chocolate, etc. Food, drinks and medications that contain stimulants should be avoided in the late evening.
  • Alcohol can affect sleep quality, contact your treating physician and ask him if it is safe to drink alcohol. If you are on medications that make you drowsy, consuming alcohol can be dangerous.
  • Quitting smoking and other nicotine containing substances, if you can’t then avoid them near bed time as nicotine is a stimulant and can disturb sleep in numerous ways.
  • Staying away from big meals close to bed time, at the same time don’t go to sleep and you are hungry. A light snack before bed can promote sleep.
  • Exercising is helpful in relieving stress and sleeping troubles. You have to start exercising as soon as you get clearance from your treating physician


2- Relaxation techniques:

Relaxation techniques can be beneficial for sleep problems, practicing them before bed time can calm the mood, reduce tension and prepare for sleep. Relaxation techniques may include:

  • Deep breathing: it is done by closing your eyes and taking deep slow breath, making each breath even deeper than the last.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: it is done by tensing all the muscles as tight as you can, then completely relaxing them. Start at your toes and work your way up to the top of your head.
  • Imagining training: Close your eyes and imagine a calming place or activity.
  • Yoga.
  • Hypnosis: it is an altered state of consciousness, artificially induced.

B- Pharmacological treatment (medications):

Medications can be used to treat sleep problems and make sleeping better, they may be used alone or with other non-pharmacological methods. It is important to follow your physician’s orders and take the medications as described.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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