Stroke: What's Sleep Got to Do With It?

J Clin Neurophysiol. 2022 Jul 1;39(5):335-345. doi: 10.1097/WNP.0000000000000821. Epub 2022 Jan 19.


Ischemic strokes most often occur between 6 am and 12 am after awakening from sleep but up to 30% occur during sleep. Wake-up strokes (WUS) are new focal neurological deficit(s) persisting for ≥ 24 hours attributable to an ischemic event present on patient awakening. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a major risk factor for WUS because it compounds the instability of the morning environment and increases the likelihood of cardiovascular events, including hypertension, atrial fibrillation, right-to-left shunts, and stroke. Circadian-driven alterations in structural, homeostatic, and serological factors also predispose to WUS. Also, WUS patients are often not considered candidates for time-dependent intravenous thrombolysis therapy because of an uncertain onset time. However, using the tissue clock (positive diffusion weighted imaging-negative fluid-attenuated inversion recovery mismatch) dates the WUS as 3 to 4.5 hours old and permits consideration for intravenous thrombolysis and if needed mechanical thrombectomy. Given the high prevalence of moderate/severe OSA in stroke patients and its impact on stroke outcomes, screening with overnight pulse oximetry and home sleep apnea test is needed. Treating OSA poststroke remains challenging. Polysomnographic changes in sleep architecture following acute/subacute stroke may also impact upon stroke outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Ischemia* / complications
  • Brain Ischemia* / diagnosis
  • Brain Ischemia* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / therapy
  • Stroke* / complications
  • Stroke* / diagnosis
  • Stroke* / therapy