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Insomnia highlighted as long-term side effect of strokes

Wednesday 6th June 2018
A new study has indicated that people who have had a stroke in the past may be more likely to have difficulties sleeping, which can hinder their long-term recovery.
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People who experience a stroke are likely to have long-term problems with insomnia, according to a new study.

The University of Surrey research has indicated that stroke patients experience sustained sleeping problems that may reduce their ability to relearn key skills and put them at increased risk of depression, suggesting this is an issue that may need to be addressed by occupational therapists assisting with stroke rehabilitation.

Researchers from the Universities of Surrey, Freiburg and Bern compared the brain signals of post-stroke patients and the general population, finding that it took stroke patients longer to fall asleep, and also that they had poorer sleep efficiency, or the ratio of time spent asleep compared to the time spent in bed.

Additionally, stroke patients were revealed to be less likely to nap or fall asleep during the day to compensate for lost sleep at night, while also being more prone to errors in a vigilance test, thus increasing their risk of cognitive failures or falls.

Based on these findings, the researchers do not believe that this insomnia is caused by lesions in the brains' centres for sleep-wake regulation; instead, they attribute the issue to a number of other contributory factors, such as greater psychological strain, pain and discomfort, as well as reduced levels of physical activity.

Annette Sterr, professor of cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology at the University of Surrey, said: "The importance of sleep in aiding the recovery of patients should not be underestimated in helping to improve and maintain physical and mental wellbeing.

"Presently, sleep is not considered in the NICE guidelines for stroke rehabilitation, an issue we hope will be revisited by the organisation in due course. Harnessing the power of good sleep is likely to maximise recovery and quality of life."

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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