Sleep is an Important Aid to Stroke Recovery

By Charles Cheow

Sleep contributes a lot to the success of a stroke patient’s rehabilitation program. Brain scientist and former stroke patient, Jill Bolte Taylor reveals this in an interview.

Taylor contradicts the methodology of most rehabilitation facilities wherein stroke patients are kept awake through medication or through activities that depended on therapists’ schedule despite the patient’s tiredness. Taylor’s treatments stopped when she was tired and began when she was ready for it, regardless of the time of day or night.

This proves that stroke rehabilitation programs’ effectiveness rely on the capability of the human body to absorb information in a given day especially when the brain is not functioning properly.

1. Sleep helps the brain consolidate memories
Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Jeffrey Ellenbogen tested whether sleep helps build and maintain memory and overcome interference. Results showed that sleep is not a state of mental inactivity for it actively helps the brain digest memories such as those from recently learned facts or working memory.
Participants who did not sleep between learning and testing recalled less of the new words they learned than those who slept. Sleeping in between therapy,then, allows the stroke patients to absorb information derived during their rehabilitation.

2. Sleep strengthens the brain
Various psychologists during the 84th Annual Convention of the Western Psychological Association presented the benefits of Random Eye Movement (REM) Sleep, which occurs between the 6th and 8th hour of sleep when dreaming begins. REM sleep produces sleep spindles that allow the brain to store new information into long-term memory. Sleep spindles are one- to two-second bursts of brain waves that rapidly wax and wane at strong frequencies.

The brain, while in REM sleep, transfers short-term memories in the motor cortex to the temporal lobe, to become long-term memories. Sleep spindles are transmitted as the temporal lobe makes sense of the new information and stores it in long-term memory. In this process, neurotransmitters essential to remembering, performance, and problem-solving are replenished by the brain.

Sufficient sleep strengthens and recuperates the brain to overcome common problems like short attention spans. Stroke patients can also be given Neuroaid to expedite recovery of neurological functions.

3. Sleep decreases risk for another stroke
Patients with diabetes and high blood pressure who suffered stroke may decrease the risk of another stroke by increasing sleep in their regime. According to Dr. Eve Van Cantor, professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, lack of sleep increases risk for diabetes and high blood pressure to become less susceptible to medication.

Scientific research has proven the effects of sufficient sleep (8 hours) to the human body, to behavior, and to society as a whole. This is why sleep should be interspersed in a stroke patient’s rehabilitation program, even if this means incorporating more hours of sleep. The length of time is irrelevant. Patience is a real virtue that reaps great rewards like the 8-year recovery of Jill Taylor.

Find out more about stroke recovery and stroke treatment remedies here.

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