Sleep disorders linked to stroke risk?

Written by Lauren Pulling

According to a literature review conducted by researchers from University Hospital Essen (Germany) and University Hospital Berne (Switzerland), sleep disorders could be linked to stroke risk and poorer recovery following stroke. As a result of their findings, the authors suggest that patients who have experienced a stroke or transient ischemic attack should be screened for sleep disorders.
“Although sleep disorders are common after a stroke, very few stroke patients are tested for them,” explained co-author Dirk Hermann, University Hospital Essen. “The results of our review show that should change, as people with sleep disorders may be more likely to have another stroke or other negative outcomes than people without sleep problems, such as having to go to a nursing home after leaving the hospital.”

In the review, published in Neurology, the researchers collated findings from previous studies that examined the link between sleep disorders and stroke and conducted a meta-analysis. They demonstrated that sleep breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, correlate with stroke risk and recovery. Similarly, sleep-wake disorders, such as insomnia and restless leg syndrome, appear to increase stroke risk and harm recovery, although there is less evidence for this relationship.

As a result of these findings, the authors recommend testing for sleep disorders in stroke patients. Additionally, the authors suggest that patients who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea should use a CPAP machine, as previous research indicates that this can improve outcomes following a stroke.

Sources: Hermann DM, Bassetti CL. Role of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep-wake disturbances for stroke and stroke recovery. Neurology doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000003037 (2016) (Epub ahead of print);