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Managing Problems with Sleep

Sleep problems are common in persons who have experienced stroke.


You may wake up frequently during sleep or you may have trouble falling asleep. This can lead to sleep patterns being interrupted, or becoming shorter or longer than usual. Insufficient sleep can make you irritable, tired during the day, and is linked to poor behavior and memory or attention problems. Sleep is also important for good health. Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions.

Stroke can also result in a condition known as sleep disordered breathing. Sleep disordered breathing occurs when there is an absence or reduction of airflow during sleep. Your sleep is interrupted several times throughout the night. This may cause sleepiness during the day, difficulty thinking and problem solving, or increased blood pressure.

What are the signs of sleep disordered breathing?

  • Loud snoring.
  • Waking up frequently during the night gasping for breath.
  • Increased sweating during sleep.
  • Shortness of breath during sleep.
  • Insomnia, or being unable to fall asleep or remain asleep throughout the night.

Contact your health care provider if you think you may have sleep disordered breathing.

What are tips for managing problems with sleep?

  • Stick to a sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
  • Do not take naps after 3PM because late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Avoid exercising within 5 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night- a large meal can cause indigestion and drinking too many fluids can cause you to wake up frequently to urinate.
  • Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after the bath may help you feel sleepy.
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol may cause you to fall asleep sooner, but decreases your quality of sleep when the sedating affects have worn off.
  • Create a good sleep environment. Get rid of anything that might distract you from sleeping such as noises, bright lights, or a television.

The following are websites to provide you with more information about managing problems with sleep:

Your Guide to Healthy Sleep (PDF)

Recovery After A Stroke: Sleep Disorders (PDF)

The Sleep Site:

Sleep and Sleep Disorders:


Jacelon, C. (2011). The specialty practice of rehabilitation nursing. Glenview, IL: Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.

National Stroke Association. (2009). Recovery fact sheet. Retrieved from,

Richards, K., Hall, K., Shook, D., Brown, P., & Nagel, C. (2002). Sleep-disordered breathing and stroke. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 17(1), 12-29.

Written in 2009 by Kalisha Ivey, MSN at the University of Toledo for the Caring~Web. Revised 2012.

Last Updated: 5/26/16