Sleep is critical, but sleep problems may follow after a stroke. Poor sleep can slow your recovery and lead to depression, memory problems and night-time falls. The good news is there are ways to improve your sleep. What are common sleep problems after stroke? These things could be interfering with you and a good night’s sleep.
Insomnia describes not being able to fall or stay asleep. Although some people get too much sleep, trouble sleeping at night followed by feeling drowsy during the day is more common. Failing to get enough sleep can delay your post-stroke recovery.
Sleep-related breathing disorders
The most common sleep disorder is a serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea. It’s caused by abnormal breathing patterns. Loud snoring, choking and gasping sounds during sleep may mean that you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea increases your risk of a second stroke.
Sleep-wake cycle disorders
After a stroke, some survivors don’t get sleepy at night. Waking in the morning may be difficult. This happens when the sleep-wake schedule is no longer affected by sunlight and the darkness of night.
How to treat sleep problems
Treatments for insomnia may include prescription sedatives or changes in your bedroom or nighttime activities. Continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP is one of the most common and effective treatments for sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnea. A CPAP machine delivers short bursts of compressed air to prevent airway obstruction and help you get a better night’s sleep. There are other ways to control sleep-related breathing disorders. A special mouthpiece can be made to help minimize your symptoms. Mouthpieces prevent teeth-clenching and prevent the tongue from interfering with breathing. In some cases, upper airway surgery can result in a wider airway and relieve sleep problems. Some medications may also help.
Sleep-wake cycle disorders can be treated in a variety of ways. Talk with your healthcare team. Bright light therapy may help. The treatment is typically administered in the morning and may last about 30 minutes.
Melatonin is a hormone taken at night. It acts like a sedative and can help induce sleep. Sleep-wake cycle disorders are not usually permanent.
Tips for managing sleep problems
Here are some easy sleep-friendly adjustments you can make at home:
- Keep your bedroom dark and at a comfortable temperature.
- Prevent and avoid noises that can be heard at night.
- Increase physical activity during the day.
- Expose yourself to light during the day.
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up the same time every day.
- Have a bedtime routine. For example, take a warm bath before bedtime. Listen to calm music or read a book.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep or sex. Do not eat food or watch TV in bed. Try setting your phone in another room if it tends to be a distraction.
Certain foods and drinks can lead to sleep problems:
- Make sure your diet limits caffeine-free food and drinks. Avoid coffee, tea, certain soft drinks and chocolate after the late afternoon.
- Plan to eat dinner three hours before you go to bed.
- Make sure you’re not hungry before bedtime. On the other hand, avoid heavy meals that can cause poor sleep.
- Limit drinks two hours before bedtime. Drinking fluids at night can lead to frequent trips to the bathroom.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks at night. Alcohol helps you fall asleep, but your sleep can be restless.