Sleep disturbances as a risk factor for stroke

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Sleep, a vital process of human being, is carefully orchestrated by the brain and consists of cyclic transitions between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep. Autonomic tranquility during NREM sleep is characterized by vagal dominance and stable breathing, providing an opportunity for the cardiovascular-neural axis to restore homeostasis, in response to use, distress or fatigue inflicted during wakefulness. Abrupt irregular swings in sympathovagal balance during REM sleep act as phasic loads on the resting cardiovascular system. Any causes of sleep curtailment or fragmentation such as sleep restriction, sleep apnea, insomnia, periodic limb movements during sleep, and shift work, not only impair cardiovascular restoration but also impose a stress on the cardiovascular system. Sleep disturbances have been reported to play a role in the development of stroke and other cardiovascular disorders. This review aims to provide updated information on the role of abnormal sleep in the development of stroke, to discuss the implications of recent research findings, and to help both stroke clinicians and researchers understand the importance of identification and management of sleep pathology for stroke prevention and care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-32
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Stroke
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Cardiovascular system
  • Homeostasis
  • Sleep
  • Sleep apnea syndromes
  • Sleep initiation and maintenance disorders
  • Stroke


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