In patients with cirrhosis, hyperammonemia and hepatic encephalopathy are common after gastrointestinal bleeding and can be simulated by an amino acid challenge (AAC), or the administration of a mixture of amino acids mimicking the composition of hemoglobin. The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical, psychometric, and wake-/sleep-electroencephalogram (EEG) correlates of induced hyperammonemia. Ten patients with cirrhosis and 10 matched healthy volunteers underwent: (1) 8-day sleep quality/timing monitoring; (2) neuropsychiatric assessment at baseline/after AAC; (3) hourly ammonia/subjective sleepiness assessment for 8 hours after AAC; (4) sleep EEG recordings (nap opportunity: 17:00-19:00) at baseline/after AAC. Neuropsychiatric performance was scored according to age-/education-adjusted Italian norms. Sleep stages were scored visually for 20-second epochs; power density spectra were calculated for consecutive 20-second epochs and average spectra determined for consolidated episodes of non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep of minimal common length. The AAC resulted in: (i) an increase in ammonia concentrations/subjective sleepiness in both patients and healthy volunteers; (ii) a worsening of neuropsychiatric performance (wake EEG slowing) in two (20%) patients and none of the healthy volunteers; (iii) an increase in the length of non-REM sleep in healthy volunteers [49.3 (26.6) versus 30.4 (15.6) min;P= 0.08]; (iv) a decrease in the sleep EEG beta power (fast activity) in the healthy volunteers; (v) a decrease in the sleep EEG delta power in patients.Conclusion:
AAC led to a significant increase in daytime subjective sleepiness and changes in the EEG architecture of a subsequent sleep episode in patients with cirrhosis, pointing to a reduced ability to produce restorative sleep.