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Stroke patients may experience sustained insomnia problems

Stroke patients may experience sustained insomnia problems
The study was conducted by Annette Sterr, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology at the University of Surrey, and colleagues to examine physiological characteristics of sleep and daytime sleepiness in chronic stroke patients compared to age-matched healthy controls living in the community.
Difficulties with sleeping in those who had a stroke have long been reported but little is known about the brain signals underlying poor sleep, in particular when patients are back in the community. It is also unclear how sleeping poorly during the night relates to sleepiness and fatigue during the day.

For the study, the researchers conducted an in-depth sleep laboratory experiment to compare the brain signals of patients in the chronic state (at least one-year post-stroke) and the general population.

Key Findings:

  • Using a polysomnogram (PSG) test, which assesses the brains’ sleeping patterns over two nights, researchers found that it took stroke patients longer to fall asleep and that they had poorer sleep efficiency – the ratio of time spent asleep compared to the time spent in bed – than those who had not experienced a stroke.
  • A multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), also showed that stroke patients were less likely to nap or fall asleep during the day to compensate for lost sleep at night.
  • The stroke patients were more prone to errors in a vigilance test than their counterparts, increasing their risk of cognitive failures or falls.
  • Although sleep efficiency was reduced in patients, total sleep time between the groups was similar, suggesting that lesions in the brains’ centers for sleep-wake regulation are unlikely to cause insomnia.
  • Sleep problems experienced by stroke patients are due to a number of contributory factors, such as greater psychological strain, pain, and discomfort as well as reduced levels of physical activity.

“Our research shows that those who have suffered from stroke maintain difficulties with their sleep which is likely to affect the overall recovery and quality of life. The importance of sleep in aiding the recovery of patients should not be underestimated in helping to improve and maintain physical and mental well-being,” said Dr. Sterr.

“The present study provides evidence for an insomnia-like sleep disorder in the chronic phase of stroke. Given the importance of sleep for daytime function, psychological well-being, and health, as well as the proposed role in neurorehabilitation, our findings highlight the need to encapsulate sleep in stroke care provision. The pathomechanisms proposed here may not only be relevant to stroke but also other chronic medical conditions,” concluded the authors.

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Source: With inputs from Scientific Reports 

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