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ICU sleep patterns 'highly abnormal'

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Quality of sleep in intensive care units (ICU) is fragmented, with patients unable to reach deep stages of sleep necessary for physical and mental restoration, according to research.

A study of 16 ICU patients monitored with polysomnography instruments found a decrease in the proportion of deep sleep and an increase in superficial sleep.

They spent just 1% of sleep time in REM stages three and four, compared with healthy controls who spent 20% of sleep time in these stages.
Stages three and four, or slow wave sleep, are considered to be the restorative phases of sleep. Authors added: ‘Sleep in surgical patients cared for in the ICU is highly abnormal.

'Future trials on improving sleep patterns [in ICU] and sleep architecture in acutely ill and injured patients during recovery are needed to analyse whether this results in improved outcomes.’

Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical Care: (2007) 63: 1-5

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