Hydrocephalus and Sleep

By Sarah Jones

Sarah has a passion for improving her and other’s sleep quality. Having suffered from sleep deprivation and feeling the effects across her entire life, she realized the importance of optimizing her sleep. She writes about sleep hygiene at SleepyDeep.com

The Effects of Insomnia on Hydrocephalus and How Natural Remedies Can Help

Sleep deprivation can take a toll on our health.  Sleeping 7 to 9 hours each night is the recommended time that allows both our minds and bodies to restore, recover, and recuperate.  Depriving yourself of sleep affects your mood, health, and cognitive activity in a negative manner.  Sleep is even more crucial to those that have hydrocephalus, a condition which affects the brain. Rest is needed to allow healing time and for system recovery during sleeping hours.

Hydrocephalus and Insomnia

Hydrocephalus can be the cause of headaches as well as some loss of both coordination and balance, seizures, and impaired vision.  Another of the physical symptoms is also sleepiness, although many have difficulty falling and staying asleep due to headaches or pain. Insomnia and hydrocephalus feed off of each other, as the person finds it difficult to fall asleep due to head pain, irritability or other physical symptoms.  Often this can lead to the misconception that the person’s shunt is ineffective or malfunctioning which can lead to unnecessary doctor’s visits or surgery. Ensuring you have the proper shunt will also help alleviate head pain and aches which can improve your sleep quality at night.

Sleep Deprivation Effects

Sleep deprivation can severely hurt our health.  Pain, stress, and anxiety can keep us awake at night which does nothing but further worsen our situation.  We must get enough sleep each night.  This is the only time our brains and bodies have to rest and to restore themselves.  While we sleep our heart rates drop as does our blood pressure which allows our bodies a break from working all day.  Sleep improves alertness, thinking abilities, motor skills, movement, energy levels and much more.  Sleeping is a key component to good health, and without it our conditions will get worse.

Techniques to Try

Without sleep, our bodies, as well as any conditions we have, may be affected negatively. Tossing and turning all evening, waking repeatedly, or not sleeping at all damages our bodies and minds.  There are natural techniques to try to help you fall asleep and stay asleep all night.  Those that suffer from hydrocephalus can benefit from calming and relaxation techniques as well for better rest.

One of the best techniques, to begin with, is food and drink intake.  Heavy meals or items loaded with sugar may be a large part of the insomnia issue.  Eat healthy fats like avocados, or try drink warm, decaffeinated tea or decaffeinated coffee to encourage relaxation.  Avoid all caffeine several hours before bedtime to avoid restless nights.

Calming exercises can assist you in falling asleep. Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga are excellent calming techniques that help focus on your breathing and the “now” which can help stop anxiety and stress.  Try the 4-7-9 Breathing Exercise to fall asleep faster and lower your blood pressure and steady your heart rate.

Remove all technology from the sleeping area.  We love to watch T.V. or browse social media on one of our devices, and this often happens from the bed.  Eliminate bright screens which trigger our brains to awaken, and set the mood for rest in the bedroom.  Both mind and body will begin to acknowledge that this room means it is time to rest and relax which will lead to better sleep.

Stick to your schedule.  A sleeping schedule is one of the best things you can do to encourage good rest each day.  Setting specific times to sleep and to wake up helps us get acclimated to a schedule, and soon the benefits of staying on a schedule will appear.  Better rest, falling asleep faster, and staying asleep are results of setting a nightly rest schedule.

Reducing Pain Through Sleep

While headaches or stress may be keeping you awake, there are ways to convince your mind and body to sleep.  Lack of proper rest at night can only increase pain and headaches as your body has not had the time needed to reset from the day. Make evenings a relaxing, soothing experience allowing your mind to settle down as sleep draws closer.  Avoid sugar and caffeine which can also worsen headaches and pain as well as keep you awake all night.  Listen to soft music, enjoy dim lighting, and practice your breathing exercises for a restful and peaceful night.

This page is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. It is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition, consult your doctor.

15 Comments for : Hydrocephalus and Sleep
  1. Reply

    Lumbar puncture was done done by my doctor. I feel better. Yet I have sleepless nights. How can I improve my sleep age 70 Advice

    • Anne
    • February 15, 2018

    Many of you are talking about being diagnosed with sleep apnea together with the hc. I have hc but not been diagnosed with sleep apnea… yet, anyway. Is this a common combination? my dad was diagnosed with sleep apnea recently (not having hc though, for the record) He has these moments of unconsciousness in his sleep, which sounds scary and nothing of my preference. hope for some answers to hopefully relieve my worry!

    Also, Id like to add, if anyone in my age-range (18+-) would like to get to know eachother that’d be nice!

    • Reply

      Hi Annie I too have hydrocephalus normal pressure and been diagnosed with sleep apnea 2 years ago I’m 42. Are you thinking you have sleep apnea?

        • Terri
        • February 2, 2019

        Hi jessica

      • Louise Hayden
      • March 3, 2019

      Hi Anne I have HC and suffer with headaches and sleep problems

  2. Reply

    My name is Christine and I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus secondary to ventricular stenosis in 2010.. I also have pulsitile tinnitus and I found it very hard to relax since I started hearing my pulse sound 24/7. They did not put a shunt in my head, instead the neurosurgeon made a new opening to let the fluid drain in 2010. My headaches aren’t bad except at night when I lay flat or if I get in real hot weather. I am able to fall asleep at night, but I wake up. I have noticed that if I sit down to do paperwork or charting that within about 15 minutes I all but fall asleep. I get up and walk around and then I wake up more. My husband suggests a sleep study so I guess that is in my near future. I really think the underlying stress of hydrocephalus and pulsitile tenitus really take a toll on your body and that causes you to be extra tired. The other thing I thought was while you sit more pressure goes to your head due to the position of sitting blocking blood flow. Any thoughts?

    • Lydia Toney
    • September 19, 2017

    I have Hydrocephalus and Dandy-Walker Syndrome with VP shunts in both areas and I had a sleep study done over 2 years ago to see if I had an issue with sleeping and other things. After that, I was diagnosed with Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea and now use a CPAP to help me breath while I sleep.

    • Dave
    • August 5, 2017

    I’ve just had two sleep studies and am about to have a third. I think that all of the electrodes they put on my head affected my shunt setting as I have started having headaches since the first study and got worse after the second. I’m afraid to have the third study but they say it is necessary because I need a bipap machine. Anybody with this experience?

      • Ines Nin
      • August 9, 2017

      Hi Dave, I would suggest to go see your neurosurgeon if you think your shunt setting has changed.

  3. Reply

    I have NPH and have had 2 ETV’s. Right now I am being treated for sleep apnea and am having trouble adjusting to the noise of the CPAP machine. Don’t mind the tight mask too much because when I was a kid I was in a body cast from my head to knee for 7 months, but the noise is driving me bonkers. I’d love a good night sleep and need to adjust to the CPAP because I hope that the sleep apnea is causing my current cognitive difficulties.

    • Jim
    • July 24, 2017

    Sleep and/or lack of sleep are serious issues. If you can’t sleep or you don’t sleep, you will be tired. DUH! However , physiologically, our bodies do need the (hopefully) uninterrupted sleep in order to function well and better. Otherwise our hydrocephalus wil get the best of us. Thanks for highlighting an important issue.

  4. Reply

    I was diagnosed with sleep apnea about 10 years ago. I have known about my hydrocephalus for 25 years and have had 6 brain surgeries to place shunts.

    Do others have similar sleep disorders after being shunted for hydrocephalus?

    • I was diagnosed with sleep apnea before being diagnosed with hydrocephalus (at age 45) when I received my first shunt, but my hydrocephalus is considered congenital. I would think that it is possible that sleep apnea is connected to hydrocephalus, but not to having a shunt.

    • GT
    • July 11, 2017

    Sleep disorders are common today and many people (w/ and w/out hydrocephalus) struggle with the effects of chronic insufficient sleep. Chronic sleep disorders can change a person’s mood, health, longevity, and productivity. It can also affect other medical and psychiatric ailments, such as, blood pressure, cardiac disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and cancer. It is important that a person and their medical team diagnose, understand the cause, and treat sleep disorders. It can change a person’s life.

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