Understanding Excessive Sleeping After Stroke

doctor talking to patient about excessive sleeping after stroke

Are you wondering if excessive sleeping after stroke is normal? You’ve come to the right place.

Excessive sleeping after stroke could be a healthy sign of recovery — or a sign that other medical complications are present.

This article will help you understand why most stroke patients desire lots of sleep after stroke, and what warrants talking to a medical professional.

First up, it’s important to understand what a stroke is and how it can lead to excessive sleepiness.

Causes of Excessive Sleeping After Stroke

A stroke occurs when the brain’s supply of blood is obstructed, which deprives an area of the brain from oxygen-rich blood, leading to brain damage.

During stroke rehabilitation, the brain is working hard to overcome this damage by rewiring itself and healing.

Normally, the brain uses up to 20% of your energy – and this percentage only increases when the brain is healing after injury like stroke.

Often, the desire for excessive sleep after stroke is caused by the simple fact that sleep helps restore the extra energy the brain needs for recovery.

However, the cause of excessive sleep after stroke could go deeper.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Syndrome

There’s a condition called excessive daytime sleepiness that some stroke patients may have. With this condition, the desire for extra sleep becomes complicated.

There are several factors that can contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness after stroke, such as:

  • Sleep-disordered breathing: a chronic condition causes partial or complete cessation of breathing throughout the night, resulting in daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
  • Sleep apnea: the most common type of sleep-disordered breathing where breathing repeatedly stops and starts, often resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Reversed Robin Hood syndrome: sleepiness caused when the brain attempts to steal blood flow from the affected areas to feed the non-affected areas. (The brain is robbing the poor to feed the rich.)
  • Depression: it can be difficult to determine if depression causes excessive daytime sleepiness or vice versa, but it can be a contributing factor.

If you struggle with any of these conditions, talk with your doctor. These medical complications could contribute to excessive sleepiness after stroke, and as a result, limit your recovery.

Diagnosis can be difficult because some measures are subjective. If you’re unhappy with one doctor’s prognosis, it could be a good idea to get a second opinion.

What It Feels Like

Some stroke patients experience mild sleepiness after stroke which can often be fully or partially resolved with a nap or good night’s sleep.

Other may experience more chronic fatigue where sleepiness does not ease no matter how much rest you get.

If you feel tired even after a good night’s sleep, then talk to your doctor about fatigue after stroke. You may need to adjust your medication or create a plan to improve your sleep.

This should be a priority because sleep is critical for recovery. Here’s why:

Benefits of Getting Quality Sleep After Stroke

The benefits of sleep are outstanding, especially for stroke patients, because sleep helps restore the brain’s energy.

Furthermore, REM sleep – the deep sleep that occurs at intervals throughout the night – helps your brain process motor information.

During REM sleep, your brain transfers short-term memories about muscle movement to the temporal lobe where they become long-term memories.

Since most stroke patients are doing physical therapy exercises to improve mobility, sleep helps the brain retain and relearn these movements.

This is an incentive for stroke patients to focus on getting enough sleep.

Sleep also gives the brain a chance to flush toxins that build up during waking hours.

Sleep Is Highly Recommended After Stroke

If that wasn’t reason enough to get more shut-eye during recovery, Jill Bolte Taylor’s top recommendation for stroke recovery is sleep!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroscientist who experienced a massive stroke and witnessed neurological injury and recovery first-hand.

Her TedTalk is one of the most-watched TedTalks of all time:

How Much Sleep Is Normal?

It’s common for caregivers and family members to be concerned when their loved one suddenly sleeps all the time.

If excessive sleepiness after stroke is concerning you, then consult a doctor. They will be able to determine if there are other contributing medical conditions.

Most of the time, however, excessive sleep is normal. To understand why this is happening, try putting yourself in a stroke survivor’s shoes.

During stroke recovery, patients are working hard to overcome the side effects of stroke by undergoing rehabilitation.

If you had to relearn everything as if for the first time, wouldn’t you be tired too? We think so!

Tips for Sleeping After Stroke

By now, hopefully you’re convinced that sleep is an essential ingredient for stroke recovery.

If you struggle with getting enough sleep after stroke, here are some tips:

  • Don’t push too hard. Sometimes fatigue doesn’t catch up with you for a day or two. If you feel particularly sleepy, think back to your last 48 hours. If you pushed hard the previous day, excessive sleepiness could be a sign to scale back.
  • Check the side effects of medication. If fatigue is listed, talk to your doctor about possibly switching medication to improve your sleep.
  • Get enough sleep, and that’s different for everyone. Since every stroke is different, every patient will benefit from a different amount of shut-eye. Listen to your body.
  • Get help with any sleeping disorders you have. If you want to sleep but can’t actually fall asleep, then you may need extra help. Talk with your doctor about diagnosing and treating any sleeping disorders you may have.
  • Eat well. A healthy diet often improves energy levels and provides the body with energy it needs to heal. Try to eat foods that help prevent a second stroke, like oatmeal and salmon.

Excessive Sleeping as a Sign of Recovery

Excessive sleep after stroke is often a sign of recovery.

While you’re sleeping, your brain gets a chance to process stimulation, flush toxins, and recharge your mental battery.

It’s normal for stroke patients to sleep a lot, especially when the brain is busy healing and rewiring itself.

If sleeping disorders are getting in the way, it’s important to talk to your doctor to resolve them.

Work hard, sleep hard. Nap time anyone?