The Importance of Getting Good Sleep After Your Stroke

Poor sleep can negatively affect your physical and mental well-being, and sleep disorders are fairly common among stroke survivors. It’s important to know the signs of a sleep disorder so that you can pursue treatment options if they are warranted.

Post-stroke sleep disorders

There are a range of sleep disorders that can affect stroke survivors, with different characteristics. They are:

  • Insomnia – According to a 2021 study published in the journal Stroke, more than one-third of stroke survivors experienced insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep) three months after the stroke.
  • Sleep disordered breathing – Northwestern Medicine reports that nearly two-thirds of stroke survivors experience this issue when breathing is disrupted during sleep.
  • Sleep-wake cycle disorders – According to statistics from Northwestern Medicine, 20-40 percent of stroke survivors may find that their circadian rhythms get off track, meaning that their sleep schedules are no longer dictated by day and night.

Consequences of poor sleep

Why is it important to get good quality sleep? If you don’t, your mind and body will suffer. These are just a few of the consequences of poor sleep:

  • Mood issues
  • Memory issues
  • Reduced neuroplasticity that prolongs the stroke recovery process
  • Increased risk of another stroke, along with other health issues
  • Systemic inflammation

Managing post-stroke sleep disorders

If you suspect that you have developed a sleep disorder after experiencing your stroke, it’s important to address the issue in order to reduce the effects of the consequences listed above. Consult with your doctor to learn about treatment options. The following approaches may be used to help patients overcome sleep disorders:

  • Sleep hygiene – reserve your bed only for sleep and sex, establish a bedtime routine, sleep in a dark cool room and turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Lifestyle changes – lose weight, cut back on alcohol and smoking, and limit caffeine use to early in the day.
  • Medication – over-the-counter or prescription Sleep apnea treatment – wearing an oral appliance or a CPAP mask
  • Bright light therapy for sleep-wake cycle disorders – Looking at a light box early in the day to reset your circadian rhythms

Your stroke recovery and your overall health depend on getting a good night’s sleep. If something is presenting an obstacle to quality sleep, talk to your doctor to learn how you can address it.