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Optimizing Sleep and Circadian Health in the NeuroICU.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This article introduces fundamental concepts in circadian biology and the neuroscience of sleep, reviews recent studies characterizing circadian rhythm and sleep disruption among critically ill patients and potentially links to functional outcomes, and draws upon existing literature to propose therapeutic strategies to mitigate those harms. Particular attention is given to patients with critical neurologic conditions and the unique environment of the neuro-intensive care unit.

RECENT FINDINGS: Circadian rhythm disruption is widespread among critically ill patients and sleep time is reduced and abnormally fragmented. There is a strong association between the degree of arousal suppression observed at the bedside and the extent of circadian disruption at the system (e.g., melatonin concentration rhythms) and cellular levels (e.g., core clock gene transcription rhythms). There is a paucity of electrographically normal sleep, and rest-activity rhythms are severely disturbed. Common care interventions such as neurochecks introduce unique disruptions in neurologic patients. There are no pharmacologic interventions proven to normalize circadian rhythms or restore physiologically normal sleep. Instead, interventions are focused on reducing pharmacologic and environmental factors that perpetuate disruption.

SUMMARY: The intensive care environment introduces numerous potent disruptors to sleep and circadian rhythms. Direct neurologic injury and neuro-monitoring practices likely compound those factors to further derange circadian and sleep functions. In the absence of direct interventions to induce normalized rhythms and sleep, current therapy depends upon normalizing external stimuli.

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