Do you crave lots of sleep after stroke and worry that it’s abnormal?
Don’t worry! It’s actually perfectly normal to crave lots of sleep during stroke rehabilitation!
Understanding the Need for Sleep After Stroke
Here are 7 things you should know about sleep after stroke.
1. A Healing Brain Requires Lots of Energy After Stroke
A stroke occurs when an artery in the brain becomes blocked or ruptured, depriving the brain of oxygen, which leads to the death of affected brain cells.
A stroke results in serious injury to the brain, so your brain will need lots of rest in order to repair and rewire itself.
In fact, your brain normally uses 20% of your energy, and that percentage only increases when it’s busy trying to fix itself.
2. Getting Plenty of Sleep After Stroke Helps Your Brain Detoxify
When you sleep, your brain gets a chance to clean itself up and flush out toxic molecules that build up during waking hours.
Since we want to boost brain power during stroke recovery, getting plenty of sleep is critical so that your brain can detoxify.
If you don’t get enough sleep and these toxins continue to build up in your brain, it could lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to this study.
3. Sleep Helps Improve Neuroplasticity and Motor Recovery after Stroke
When you perform stroke rehabilitation exercise to improve movement, sleep helps your brain process and store that information.
During REM sleep, your brain turns short-term memories about muscle movement into long-term memories that become stored in the part of the brain that’s in charge of muscle activity.
This rewiring process is called neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to form and strengthen new neural connections. This is how you will reverse your stroke side effects, like impaired motor function.
Essentially, when you sleep, it helps your brain cement the new skills that you’re re-learning for better recall later.
Bonus: Download our free stroke recovery tips ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)
4. Sleep Is This Famous Stroke Survivor’s Top Recommendation
Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who experienced a massive stroke, wrote a book called My Stroke of Insight that recounted her 8-year stroke recovery and all the lessons she learned.
In that book, sleep is her top recommendation for healing!
So take it from a stroke-surviving neuroscientist: sleep is important.
5. Make Sure Fatigue Isn’t a Side Effect from Medication
Sometimes the excessive desire for sleep has to do with something more than just healing in the brain. Sometimes medication is the culprit.
If you’re currently taking medication, then be sure to check read up on all possible side effects as “difficulty sleeping” could be one of them.
One of our readers reported that she had trouble sleeping ever since her stroke. Then when she finally brought the problem up to her doctor, a simple change in the timing of her medication (taking it in the afternoon instead of right before bed) allowed her to finally get some shut eye!
So don’t overlook the cause that could be right in front of your nose. Always read the side effects of any medication you take.
6. Have Trouble Sleeping? It Could Be a Disorder
But what if you really want to sleep lots, but you just can’t seem to fall asleep when you want? Many stroke survivors suffer from insomnia or other sleeping disorders after stroke.
- Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you can’t sleep at night. This lack of sleep is often accompanied by a drowsy feeling during the day, which can set back your recovery.
- Irregular sleep-wake syndrome occurs when you are no longer affected by the cycles of the day (i.e. sunlight during the day and darkness of night) and as a consequence, you develop disrupted sleeping patterns.
- Sleep apnea is a condition where affected breathing disrupts your sleep. Sleep apnea is typically characterized by loud snoring and abrupt awakenings that are accompanied by shortness of breath, which can result in daytime tiredness.
7. Optimize Your Shut Eye for the Best Recovery from Stroke
If you want to get better sleep after stroke but sleeping disorders are getting in the way, try these tips:
How to Treat Insomnia:
Treating sleeping disorders can be tricky. There are natural ways to cure insomnia – like avoiding caffeine 8 hours before bed and mediating daily – but sometimes it isn’t enough.
If you suffer from insomnia, talk to your doctor about possible medication that can help. Since sleep is such an important ingredient for recovery, it could be worth the visit.
How to Treat Irregular Sleep-Wake Syndrome:
For irregular sleep-wake syndrome, try adding more exercise into your day or try supplementing with melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy, before bedtime.
Check with your doctor before you add any new supplements to your regimen.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea:
Sleep apnea is a little harder to cure. For starters, you can try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that will deliver a continuous flow of air into your nose or mouth. If that doesn’t work, there are different types of surgery options that you can discuss with your doctor.
Summary: Why You Need Lots of Sleep After Stroke
Craving lots of sleep after stroke is perfectly normal since the brain is healing and requires ample time to rest and recover.
Sleep does wonders for the brain by giving it time to remove harmful toxins and process all the stimulation it received during waking hours.
Ample sleep helps neuroplasticity to take full effect, so that you can rewire your brain and regain lost skills.
If you have trouble sleeping, talk with your doctor as a change in your medication can help fix the issue. Because sleep is essential for a healthy recovery from stroke.
Nap time anyone?