Sleep disturbances in critically ill patients in ICU: how much do we know?

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2012 Sep;56(8):950-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.2012.02672.x. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


Sleep disturbances in the intensive care unit (ICU) seem to lead to development of delirium, prolonged ICU stay, and increased mortality. That is why sufficient sleep is important for good outcome and recovery in critically ill patients. A variety of small studies reveal pathological sleep patterns in critically ill patients including abnormal circadian rhythm, high arousal and awakening index, reduced Slow Wave Sleep, and Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The purpose of this study is to summarise different aspects of sleep-awake disturbances, causes and handling methods in critically ill patients by reviewing the underlying literature. There are no studies of level 1 evidence proving the positive impact of the tested interventions on the critically ill patients' sleep pattern. Thus, disturbed sleep in critically ill patients with all the severe consequences remains an unresolved problem and needs further investigation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Critical Care*
  • Critical Illness*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / chemically induced
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Melatonin