Role of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep-wake disturbances for stroke and stroke recovery

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Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and sleep-wake disturbances (SWD) are highly prevalent in stroke patients. Recent studies suggest that they represent both a risk factor and a consequence of stroke and affect stroke recovery, outcome, and recurrence.


Review of literature.


Several studies have proven SDB to represent an independent risk factor for stroke. Sleep studies in TIA and stroke patients are recommended in view of the very high prevalence (>50%) of SDB (Class IIb, level of evidence B). Treatment of obstructive SDB with continuous positive airway pressure is recommended given the strength of the increasing evidence in support of a positive effect on outcome (Class IIb, level of evidence B). Oxygen, biphasic positive airway pressure, and adaptive servoventilation may be considered in patients with central SDB. Recently, both reduced and increased sleep duration, as well as hypersomnia, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome (RLS), were also suggested to increase stroke risk. Mainly experimental studies found that SWD may in addition impair neuroplasticity processes and functional stroke recovery. Treatment of SWD with hypnotics and sedative antidepressants (insomnia), activating antidepressants or stimulants (hypersomnia), dopaminergic drugs (RLS), and clonazepam (parasomnias) are based on single case observations and should be used with caution.


SDB and SWD increase the risk of stroke in the general population and affect short- and long-term stroke recovery and outcome. Current knowledge supports the systematic implementation of clinical procedures for the diagnosis and treatment of poststroke SDB and SWD on stroke units.

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