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Insomnia means having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night despite the time and opportunity to get a good night’s sleep. The lack of sleep negatively affects what a person can do during the day. Research shows that insomnia is common in stroke survivors. Some people have insomnia before their stroke, and some develop insomnia after a stroke. Insomnia can be a symptom of other sleep-related disorders, but can also be an independent difficulty. For stroke survivors, insomnia can reduce the amount of energy available for physical and behavioral rehabilitation.

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The following are symptoms of insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep—waking up repeatedly throughout the night
  • Waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep
  • Any sleep that is poor quality and does not leave you feeling refreshed

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Treatment and Management

Treatments of insomnia can include prescription sedatives or environmental and lifestyle changes. Research shows that some common sedatives can interfere with post-stroke recovery. However, some antidepressant medications that cause drowsiness are commonly prescribed after a stroke. This is especially relevant for stroke survivors with depression. Insomnia and depression after a stroke often go hand in hand.

Stroke survivors can take steps to make their bedroom a better environment for a good night’s sleep, and can also take action during the day to improve insomnia. Here is a list of common sleep-friendly adjustments you can make at home:

  • Keep the bedroom dark
  • Prevent and avoid noises that can be heard at night
  • Increase movement and exercise
  • Expose yourself to light during the day
There are many more environment and lifestyle changes that can improve insomnia. It is best to consult with a healthcare professional about your specific case.

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Content Updated: August 2012

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