Post-stroke, what can we do to help him sleep?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My father had an occipital hemorrhage stroke on 18 December 2009 and he is now having a lot of trouble sleeping at all. He is awake night and day and I was just wondering if there was anything to be done about it. Can you also tell me if this is normal and expected to pass. He has a weak left hand and a paralyzed left leg but if he could sleep he would be well enough to do rehabilitation. Thank you.

Expert Answer

Steven Y. Park, M.D., is a board-certified otolaryngologist specializing in diagnosing and treating sleep-breathing problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, and upper airway resistance syndrome. Park is a blogger (doctorstevenpark.com) and author of the book Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired.

Your father's experiences with sleep problems after a stroke are common. Fortunately, in most cases, it does get better. Your neurologist can give you a lot more details about all the different options for treatment.

One issue that is not addressed often enough is to screen for obstructive sleep apnea in all stroke patients. Studies have shown that the vast majority of stroke patients have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, which is a major risk factor for stroke. If he has obstructive sleep apnea, then that's another good reason for his sleep problems.