Sleep patterns associated with the severity of impairment in a large cohort of patients with chronic disorders of consciousness

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Objective: We assessed sleep patterns in 85 patients with chronic disorders of consciousness (DOC) in order to reveal any relationship with the degree of the impairment. Methods: Nocturnal polysomnography (PSG) was scored in patients classified as being in an unresponsive wakefulness syndrome/vegetative state (UWS/VS; n = 49) or a minimally conscious state (MCS; n = 36) in accordance with the rules of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The PSG data in the two diagnostic groups were compared, and the PSG parameters associated with the degree of impairment were analysed. Results: In 19/49 UWS/VS patients, signal attenuation was the only EEG pattern detectable in sleep. Non-REM 2 (NREM2) and slow-wave sleep (SWS) (but not REM) stages were more frequent in the MCS patients. The presence of SWS was the most appropriate factor for classifying patients as UWS/VS or MCS, and the duration of SWS was the main factor that significantly correlated with revised Coma Recovery Scale scores. Conclusion: The presence of NREM sleep (namely SWS) reflects better preservation of the circuitry and structures needed to sustain this stage of sleep in DOC patients. Significance: PSG is a simple and effective technique, and sleep patterns may reflect the degree of impairment in chronic DOC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-693
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2018



  • Minimally conscious state
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep
  • Unresponsive wakefulness syndrome
  • Vegetative state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)

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