Eating normally again
Since being ill, patients may find that they have lost their appetite or that their sense of taste has changed. It is common for food to taste saltier and sweeter than normal, or to have an unusual metallic taste. Many people find that sharp foods such as fresh fruit, fruit juices and boiled sweets are refreshing and leave a pleasant taste in the mouth. These taste changes are only temporary and should return to normal within a few weeks.
If your appetite is poor then small meals with nourishing snacks in between are often easier to manage. Eating will be more enjoyable if you take your time, avoid heavy fatty foods and relax for a while afterwards. Provided that your doctor has not advised you to avoid alcohol, you may find that a small drink before your meal, or with your meal, will help to stimulate your appetite.
In hospital patients may be given a high protein diet with some of the foods fortified for extra nourishment. Nourishing drinks that can be taken between meals can be arranged and there are also glucose syrups and tasteless glucose powders available that can be taken as drinks or added to food to increase energy intake. When you go home you may need to continue to take some of these nourishing supplements for a while but you will be advised if this is necessary. If you are having problems with eating, then ask your doctor to refer you to the dietician for more specific advice on a nourishing diet at home.
You may find that your sleep pattern has changed. It may be more difficult to fall asleep or you may wake frequently during the night. When your body is not active, it does not need as much sleep as normal. As you recover and become more active you should find your sleep pattern returns to normal.
Go to bed at the same time each evening and most importantly, get up at the same time each morning, even if you have not slept well during the night. This will help you to recover your normal routine and sleep pattern.
You may find taking a bath or a shower shortly before going to bed will help you feel more relaxed, making it easier to fall asleep. Many people find that a bedtime drink is helpful, but you should avoid tea, coffee and large amounts of alcohol. Reading just before going to sleep is also a good way of relaxing.
Being awake at night can be worrying. Things easily seem to get out of proportion. It is common for a small problem to seem overwhelming in the early hours when you are the only person awake. This is quite normal but when you have been ill, it is often harder to cope with things like this. If you are awake at night then you may find it helpful to read or listen to the radio. Even if you do not fall asleep this will at least help to pass the time.
Some patients have experienced nightmares while in the ICU, or have been bothered by them when they first leave the ICU. Although they may be very vivid and frightening at the time, they usually settle over a few days or weeks and again it is quite normal to experience this.
It may be helpful to discuss your dreams or nightmares with your family and friends (who may have featured in them) as it can help to explain their meaning and may help your own state of mind.
Finally, the most important thing is not to worry about the lack of sleep as it will not do you any harm, and as you recover, things will get back to normal.