Sleep on the ward in intensive care unit survivors: a case series of polysomnography

Intern Med J. 2018 Jul;48(7):795-802. doi: 10.1111/imj.13791.


Background: Few studies have investigated sleep in patients after intensive care despite the possibility that inadequate sleep might further complicate an acute illness impeding recovery.

Aims: To assess the quality and quantity of a patient's sleep on the ward by polysomnography (PSG) within a week of intensive care unit (ICU) discharge and to explore the prevalence of key in-ICU risk factors for persistent sleep fragmentation.

Methods: We enrolled 20 patients after they have been mechanically ventilated for at least 3 days and survived to ICU discharge. We included all patients over the age of 16 years and excluded patients with advanced cognitive impairment or who were unable to follow simple commands before their acute illness, primary admission diagnosis of neurological injury, uncontrolled psychiatric illness or not fluent in English.

Results: Twenty patients underwent an overnight PSG recording on day 7 after ICU discharge (SD, 1 day). ICU survivors provided 292.8 h of PSG recording time with median recording times of 16.8 h (Interquartile range (IQR), 15.0-17.2 h). The median total sleep time per patient was 5.3 h (IQR, 2.6-6.3 h). In a multivariable regression model, postoperative admission diagnosis (P = 0.04) and patient report of poor ICU sleep (P = 0.001) were associated with less slow-wave (restorative) sleep on the wards after ICU discharge.

Conclusions: Patients reported poor sleep while in the ICU, and a postoperative admission diagnosis may identify a high-risk subgroup of patients who may derive greater benefit from interventions to improve sleep hygiene.

Keywords: hypnogram; intensive care unit; sleep; survivors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Polysomnography*
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep Stages*
  • Sleep*
  • Survivors
  • Time Factors