Facebook Twitter Instagram You Tube Pinterest LinkedIn RSS Podcasts Video Library Blog
 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Sleep Disorders

Sleep problems are commonly reported by stroke survivors, becoming characterized as sleep disorders if they keep occurring over a long period of time.

A condition known as sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is reported by two-thirds of stroke survivors, which is characterized by abnormal breathing patterns that interrupt sleep during the night.

The result of SDB is that you may be very sleepy during the day or find it difficult to think or solve problems.

SDB can be particularly dangerous for stroke survivors, as it can increase blood pressure and blood clotting, as well as put more strain on the heart.

Types of Sleep Disorders

The most common type of SDB in stroke survivors is obstructive sleep apnea, which causes you to stop breathing for 10 or more seconds, many times during the night.

Approximately 20 to 40 percent of survivors experience sleep-wake cycle disorders (SWDs), also known as “circadian disturbances,” in which your sleep schedule is no longer determined by day and night.

Insomnia is another common type of sleep disorder for stroke survivors, in which you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.

Signs & Symptoms

SDBs have a number of signs, some of which are apparent at night, and others which are apparent during the day.


  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up during the night, gasping for breath
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increase in sweating
  • Insomnia


  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

Diagnosis & Testing

While a family member or partner is likeliest to notice SDB, you may also notice it, yourself. You should consult with your doctor if you notice it. Your doctor may conduct a polysomnogram, an all-night test of your sleep patterns, done in a specially-designed sleep center.


There are a number of different treatments, depending on the origin and nature of the sleep disorder, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding sleep medicines
  • Use of a specially-designed dental appliance design to open airways during the night
  • Avoiding sleeping on your back
  • Using a continuous positive airway pressure machine to open your airways
Last UpdateApril 30, 2012