Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Sleep in the surgical intensive care unit: continuous polygraphic recording of sleep in nine patients receiving postoperative care.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 290 doi: (Published 06 April 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;290:1029
  1. J Aurell,
  2. D Elmqvist


    Sleep was studied in nine patients for two to four days after major non-cardiac surgery by continuous polygraphic recording of electroencephalogram, electrooculogram, and electromyogram. Presumed optimal conditions for sleep were provided by a concerted effort by staff to offer constant pain relief and reduce environmental disturbance to a minimum. All patients were severely deprived of sleep compared with normal. The mean cumulative sleep time (stage 1 excluded) for the first two nights, daytime sleep included, was less than two hours a night. Stages 3 and 4 and rapid eye movement sleep were severely or completely suppressed. The sustained wakefulness could be attributed to pain and environmental disturbance to only minor degree. Sleep time as estimated by nursing staff was often grossly misjudged and consistently overestimated when compared with the parallel polygraphic recording. The grossly abnormal sleep pattern observed in these patients may suggest some fundamental disarrangement of the sleep-wake regulating mechanism.