Can being put under general anesthesia make up for a sleep deficit?

Say you’re chronically sleep deprived, either by insomnia or just not having enough time to get enough sleep.

You go in for surgery and you’re put under with general anesthesia. Let’s say it’s, oh, a 2 hour surgery.

You wake up and you’re of course groggy and all from the anesthesia and pain meds and whatnot. Once you become un-groggy, are you any more well rested? And if you are, is it as if you’ve simply had a 2 hour nap, or, because you were completely knocked out, is it like having slept for a much longer period?

Recent experience says no (and I didn’t use the pain meds… well, just once as a test). I’m thinking anesthetics don’t put you to “sleep,” but incapacitate you; sort of an analog to being high on drugs, drunk, or knocked in the head. You’re body isn’t resting, it’s just out of commission.

A doctor-type would provide a better explanation. As for me, I’m just tired and unable to sleep.

I don’t think it’s equivalent. During sleep, your brain is fairly active doing things. (one of the things seems to be transferring memories from short-term memory to long-term. People deprived of restful sleep begin to have memory losses.) I don’t think this happens when under anesthesia.

It’s been a while, but my personal experience seems to agree with this. Qfter surgery, i slept quite a bit more than normal for several days.

My personal experience also suggests the answer is no. I’ve had surgery under anesthesia and usually I’m more tired than usual rather than feeling rested afterwards.

A WAG but I think that while you’re unconscious and immobile, having surgery is actually a pretty strenuous activity for your body to go through and it’s probably more the physical equivalent of a hard workout rather than a nice nap.

This scholarly link with a study on mice may be helpful to you. From the summary:
“In contrast with published actions of propofol, for which no REM sleep rebound occurred, REM sleep rebound occurs after exposure to volatile anesthetics in rodents, suggesting that volatile anesthetics do not fully substitute for natural sleep.”

This slightly-less scholarly (but much more lay-accessible) article by Psychology Today says that anesthesia is closer to coma than sleep, and states that comas don’t count as sleep:
"The brain works through information flow. Anesthetics produce amnesia, among many other things, because the brain cannot process the information received from the rest of the body—and communication within those parts of the brain that are partially active is multiply blocked.
“Information processing is what the body does. Information comes in, is processed, remembered, or forgotten. Much of that process of remembering and forgetting occurs during sleep.”

So, the consensus seems to be that anesthesia cannot substitute for sleep. This can be anecdotally confirmed by people who experience sleep-debt after surgery (although the physical trauma caused by surgery, as well as the aftereffects of the anesthetic, may confound that data). I’ve never been given an anesthetic, so I can’t personally attest to that. But it seems like anesthesia is comparable to a temporary brain-pause. Only the reptilian brain functions that are absolutely essential to survival go on during anesthesia. Whereas during normal sleep, your brain continues to actively coalesce the information you gathered while you were awake.

Also note that anesthetizing someone is not that routine yet – you still need someone monitoring you, checking that you’re not drifting into a more permanent relaxed state.

That said, I underwent surgery last month, and the after-effects of the anesthesia led to a very good night’s sleep that night.

I asked the doctor about it before my wife’s recent surgery, and he said no.

Surprised nobody has mentioned Michael Jackson yet. He died because he tried to use propofol because he had insomnia.

I had a hernia procedure about 2 years ago and they used propafol. I describe it as a discontinuity in time. I was babbling to the anaesthesiologist as I was being wheeled in and then instantly I was talking to the surgeon in post-op. No sense of rest or dreams in between. I slept fine that night but had the most god-awful gas-bloat pains as my digestive system seemed to have stopped moving things along.

I can’t imagine that Michael Jackson was getting any rest if he was being knocked out by this stuff every night. It’s actually a scary thought.

Please forgive the hijack but I’ve heard (and it might be a more practical fix) that hypnotism can provide some relief for lack of good sleep.

I’d be interested in that subject as I have my own sleep issues.

I have had surgery 6 times and I felt utterly exhausted after each.

This thread begs a question from me:

Is there a way to artificially put someone into legitimate, restful sleep? Confirmable by brain patterns, REM, etc.? Something analogous to anesthesia?

I’m assuming that things like OTC sleep aids make you sufficiently drowsy, but don’t really put you into true sleep all that quickly the way anesthesia puts you under quickly.

Of course, the more recent example - Michael Jackson was taking propofol to make up for his inability to sleep. Apparently it did not do much for that until the very end when he could not be woken up.

Doesn’t really answer your question but:

There is a condition called Fatal Familial Insomnia, which is just as it sounds (the familial part meaning it is hereditary). Doctors try to get these people to sleep but while they can be put into deep or light sleep, they won’t go into REM and near REM sleep, which appear to be the most important phases.

However, FFI involves plaques in the brain, so it may be a misleading example. Just thought you might find it interesting :slight_smile:

This is anecdote, not data …

I regularly use a hypnosis Relaxation track (Paul McKenna, free with a daily paper a few years back), particularly when I am profoundly tired due to lack of sleep (i.e. close to or actually at the stage of microsleep). The tape is 25 minutes long, and when it finishes, I am always refreshed (and certainly not groggy in the way a nap can make you). Now, I can’t tell you if I actually fall asleep, or if the relaxation state is just close to sleep, but it sure helps. I don’t really accept that the other tracks I have (Change Your Life, Lose Weight) can help you in any other way, they just provide aural isolation and a means of really relaxing (and maybe sleeping) for a specified time.

When I was on my most recent longhaul flight - 28 hours to the UK on my own - I was arriving at 6am and going straight to work for the day. I sleep poorly on the plane and have several days of jetlag when arriving back from NZ. I edited up a seamless version of the relaxation tape that was 3 hours long, and used it 4 times (12 hours) on the various flight sections. I wasn’t always fully “submerged”, but I stayed in the track till the end each time and was pretty well rested when I arrived, and I coped with work fine. I also recovered from the journey much quicker than usual.



Was propafol the only thing they gave you? My Mom had a procedure, in March, for which she was given propafol and versed. The nurse explained that the versed would keep memories from forming.

I remember the media addressing this contradiction as the details of his death began to surface. I think Jackson and his doctors/dealers were aware that it wasn’t actually treating his inability to “sleep” per se, but rather his frustration from being awake nearly 24/7.

I was out for a couple of hours for knee surgery. That night and for most of the next day I couldn’t sleep soundly for more than 30-60 minutes at a time (which isn’t sound sleep at all.) Any benefit I may have gotten from my pharmaceutical-induced slumber was more than wiped out by the fitful hours that followed.

Thalidomide is one of the most effective non-barbiturate sleep inducers. It acts on the sleep center in the forebrain and promotes increased REM sleep.