How to Sleep and Take Care of Yourself After Cataract Surgery

Cataract Surgery is performed when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and causes the person’s vision to become hazy or blurry. Today the procedure is quick and painless. In less than an hour, the obscured lens is removed and most often replaced with a clear artificial lens.

Surgery is often the only treatment for cataracts, and there’s not much one can do to prevent them. The NEI (National Eye Institute) recommends not smoking and also wearing sunglasses with UV protection to potentially lessen the likelihood of developing cataracts. Those who smoke and have increased exposure to sunlight seem to be at increased risk, but genetics also play a role.

Though cataract surgery is considered extremely safe, it’s important to be prepared and follow your doctor’s recommendations both before and after the procedure to help minimize infection and avoid complications.

How to Prepare for Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery generally won’t require an overnight hospital stay and is typically performed by your opthalmologist in an outpatient surgery center.

Several days or weeks before the surgery your doctor will use ultrasound equipment to measure the size and shape of your eye. These measurements will be used to fit the new intraocular lens that will be implanted during your surgery to replace the cloudy lens.

Your opthalmologist will provide instructions for what to avoid the night before and the morning of your surgery. Often patients will be instructed to not eat or drink anything 12 or more hours prior to the procedure. Most often cataracts are corrected with the use of local anesthesia and do not require general anesthesia, meaning you won’t be asleep for the procedure, but the area will be entirely numb. 

Some common recommendations include wearing loose-fitting and comfortable clothing on the day of your surgery and also not wearing any jewelry or makeup, especially eye makeup. You’ll also need a designated driver to take you home following your surgery.

How to Sleep After Cataract Surgery

Rest is critical in recovering from any surgery, including cataract surgery. Lying on your back is the recommended sleeping position following any eye surgery as it provides the least amount of pressure and potential for irritation of the eye. 

Surgeons advise not sleeping at all on the same side as the operated eye. Your pillow can rub up against this area causing inflammation.

Wedge Pillows Can Help with Safety and Security Following Cataract Surgery

Wedge pillows can help you rest and recover while sleeping on your back. Sleeping in a new position can be a bit tricky, especially for side sleepers who aren’t used to laying flat throughout the night. 

A unique wedge pillow system has come onto the market that addresses the specific needs following several different types of surgery, including cataract surgery. The Sleep Again Pillow System supports back sleeping while healing and combines five pillows together - two body pillows, two wedge pillows, and a neck support pillow - to cradle your entire body and prevent rolling while sleeping. 

While the recovery time for cataract surgery isn’t particularly long, investing in a post-surgical pillow provides many more benefits than just a one-time surgery.

This pillow system was designed as an overall healing pillow to help optimize sleep. It can be used for hundreds of ailments or procedures, including cancer recovery, back pain, shoulder surgery or pain, neck pain, sleep apnea, sinus issues, stomach surgery, cosmetic surgery, and as a positioning pillow for the elderly. It’s specifically designed with your rest and safety in mind.

Though they work together as one system, all five pillows are separate pieces and can be shared with other family members, if desired. The two body pillows are full-length and can be split apart and used individually. If you’re curious about the sleep benefits of body pillows, check out our recent article on How to Use a Body Pillow. Additionally, the two wedges can be used separately to support the lower back and legs or together to provide a greater incline for reading. The wedges in this system are also wider than standard wedge pillows, providing greater comfort and safety.

What to Expect After Cataract Surgery

Most patients experience only mild discomfort following the procedure which can be eased by using over-the-counter pain relievers.

Patients may be advised to wear a protective shield or eye patch for a short time after their surgery, including while they sleep. This is to prevent irritation and infection. Wearing a shield or patch as advised will help keep foreign objects such as dust, hair, and dirt out of your eye. And most importantly, don’t rub your eyes! Though the eyes can be itchy following cataract surgery, resist the urge to rub them as doing so can increase irritation and inflammation of your healing eyeball.

Vision typically improves within a few days following surgery, and things like colors may seem much brighter than before. Some patients experience light sensitivity following surgery and may be instructed to wear sunglasses outdoors for the first week after the procedure.

You’ll also be advised to avoid a whole host of activities for a set duration such as driving, swimming, intense exercise, drinking alcohol, and smoking as all of these activities can increase pressure within the eye.