Night sleep in patients with vegetative state


Polysomnographic recording of night sleep was carried out in 15 patients with the diagnosis vegetative state (syn. unresponsive wakefulness syndrome). Sleep scoring was performed by three raters, and confirmed by means of a spectral power analysis of the electroencephalogram, electrooculogram and electromyogram. All patients but one exhibited at least some signs of sleep. In particular, sleep stage N1 was found in 13 patients, N2 in 14 patients, N3 in nine patients, and rapid eye movement sleep in 10 patients. Three patients exhibited all phenomena characteristic for normal sleep, including spindles and rapid eye movements. However, in all but one patient, sleep patterns were severely disturbed as compared with normative data. All patients had frequent and long periods of wakefulness during the night. In some apparent rapid eye movement sleep episodes, no eye movements were recorded. Sleep spindles were detected in five patients only, and their density was very low. We conclude that the majority of vegetative state patients retain some important circadian changes. Further studies are necessary to disentangle multiple factors potentially affecting sleep pattern of vegetative state patients.

Journal of Sleep Research