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

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 28, 2016
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 Answers

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 ( 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.

Community Answers

Marciamspt answered...

Dr. Park is right! I've seen 100's of stroke patients in their homes and a lack of sleep seems to plague a good percentage of them.

In search of answers I've done a lot of reading on the topic and have found simple ways that may help your father get more sleep.

  1. Feeding him nutritious food and making breakfast and lunch your main meal. Eating lightly in the evening AND several hours before bedtime.

  2. Figs, dates and whole grain crackers contain tryptophan. This amino acid is known to promote sleep.

  3. A lack of calcium and magnesium can cause you to wake up after a few hours of sleep an be unable to fall back asleep.

  4. Talk to your doctor about the B complex vitamins group.

  5. Foods containing tyramine can increase the release of the brain stimulant called norepinephrine. Some of these foods are:eggplant, potatoes, spinach, sugar and tomatoes.

  6. Other difficult to digest foods and food that can keep you awake include: fatty foods, white flour, salt, MSG, chemical preservatives, additives, and allergenic foods, cheese, bacon, chocolate, ham, sausage and wine.

  7. alcohol disrupts sleep later in the night.

  8. Nicotine is a neuro-stimulant.

  9. Sunlight during the day can help you sleep at night.

There are many more I could share but wanted to give you a good start anyway...

Hoping that some ideas here help you!

Marcia Oliver MSPT, CPT