Ischemic stroke selectively inhibits REM sleep of rats

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Sleep disorders are important risk factors for stroke; conversely, stroke patients suffer from sleep disturbances including disruptions of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and a decrease in total sleep. This study was performed to characterize the effect of stroke on sleep architecture of rats using continuous electroencephalography (EEG) and activity monitoring. Rats were implanted with transmitters which enabled continuous real time recording of EEG, electromyography (EMG), and locomotor activity. Baseline recordings were performed prior to induction of either transient middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion or sham surgery. Sleep recordings were obtained for 60 h after surgery to identify periods of wakefulness, NREM, and REM sleep before and after stroke. Spectral analysis was performed to assess the effects of stroke on state-dependent EEG. Finally, we quantified the time in wake, NREM, and REM sleep before and after stroke. Delta power, a measure of NREM sleep depth, was increased the day following stroke. At the same time, there was a significant shift in theta rhythms to a lower frequency during REM and wake periods. The awake EEG slowed after stroke over both hemispheres. The EEG of the ischemic hemisphere demonstrated diminished theta power specific to REM in excess of the slowing seen over the contralateral hemisphere. In contrast to rats exposed to sham surgery which had slightly increased total sleep, rats undergoing stroke experienced decreased total sleep. The decrease in total sleep after stroke was the result of dramatic reduction in the amount of REM sleep after ischemia. The suppression of REM after stroke was due to a decrease in the number of REM bouts; the length of the average REM bout did not change. We conclude that after stroke in this experimental model, REM sleep of rats is specifically and profoundly suppressed. Further experiments using this experimental model should be performed to investigate the mechanisms and consequences of REM suppression after stroke.


□ Sleep disturbances are common in patients with stroke. □ We used animals to determine the causal relationship between stroke and sleep disturbances. □ Stroke in rats caused dramatic reduction in REM. □ Reduction in REM was due to decreased REM bouts. □ Causes and treatment of REM deprivation in stroke should be investigated further.

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