Get a good night’s sleep

If you’re having trouble sleeping following a heart attack or an episode of unstable angina, you’re not alone. Many people find their sleep pattern is disrupted during a stay in hospital – and it can be difficult to return to normal once you get home. 1

Sleep is an important part of the healing process, so it’s worth doing what you can to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep. 2

Tips for a better night’s sleep 3

To sleep well, it helps to cover the basics – use our checklist:

  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet, and your bed is comfortable. Consider redecorating too, as blues and greens are thought to be calming colours. 4
  • Avoid screens and technology in the bedroom – and try to put them away altogether for an hour before you go to bed.
  • Try a lavender room diffuser, pillow or eye mask. The aroma of lavender seems to aid restful sleep. 
  • Avoid tea and coffee at least four hours before bed.
  • Eat lighter meals and cut out alcohol in the evenings. 
  • Wait until you feel drowsy before going to bed and you’ll nod off sooner. And try picturing a pleasant scene rather than counting sheep – research suggests it’s far more effective.5
  • Having some ‘wind down’ time in the evenings. Have a warm bath, listen to calming music, look at a relaxing book or magazine or try a short meditation.
  • Studies show doing aerobic exercise during the day can help you sleep, though it may be best to avoid vigorous exercise for two hours before you go to bed.6 You should speak to your cardiologist or GP before starting an exercise programme.

Get your worries under control

if worrying keeps you awake, try these tips:7

  • Set aside 20 minutes of ‘worry time’ every evening and write out a list of your concerns. This may help stop them simply going round in your head. It can also be easier to see solutions to problems once they’re on paper.
  • Take your list out the next day and set some realistic goals. For example, if your worry is ‘I’ll never get better’, set a goal to keep a diary of your progress, as this will help you to think more positively.
  • Talk to someone you trust, whether that’s your doctor or your partner, as other people can help us get things in perspective.
  • Some people experience high levels of anxiety following a heart attack – and in some cases become depressed. If you feel persistently anxious or low over a period of weeks, speak to your GP, as you may need support to get you back on track.


Doing some exercise may help you to sleep better. Read our guide to getting fit after a heart attack.

1, Accessed November 2018

2Nagai et al. (2010). Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease- a review of the recent literature. Current cardiology reviews, 6(1), 54-61.

3General sleep tips: Permission to publish, Clare Moloney, Health psychology specialist, Atlantis Healthcare

4Kurt, S. and Osueke, K. K. (2014) ‘The Effects of Color on the Moods of College Students’, SAGE Open. doi: 10.1177/2158244014525423

5Harvey, A; Payne, S: The management of unwanted pre-sleep thoughts in insomnia; Behaviour Research and Therapy., March 2002, Pages 267-277 Full text available to purchase at:

6Dolezal BA, Neufeld EV, Boland DM, Martin JL, Cooper CB. Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review. Adv Prev Med. 2017;2017:1364387.

7Permission to publish: Clare Moloney, Health psychology specialist, Atlantis Healthcare