Buy this Article for $10.95

Have a coupon or promotional code? Enter it here:

When you buy this you'll get access to the ePub version, a downloadable PDF, and the ability to print the full article.


Hospitalization, Sleep, Subarachnoid space



  1. Fowler, Susan B. PhD, RN, CNRN, CRRN, FAHA
  2. Walker, Sarah BSN, RN, CCRN
  3. Jones, Timothy W. MD
  4. Gell, Lauren BSN, RN


Background: Nurses caring for intensive care patients diagnosed with an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH) conduct frequent neurological assessments and vital signs over an extended period during which patients are at risk of vasospasm. The frequency of assessments can negatively impact sleep, resulting in altered thought processes and mood, including delirium. There are 2 types of sleep during the night: non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and REM sleep (also called stage R). Non-REM sleep is subdivided into 3 stages: stage N1, stage N2, and stage N3. These 4 stages of sleep are referred to as sleep architecture.


Objective: The aim of this study was to explore patterns of sleep in patients with aSAH over time during hospitalization.


Methods: Sleep data of stages and cycles were collected with use of a Fitbit activity tracker in this pilot, exploratory research study. Demographic data included age and gender. Six English-speaking patients, diagnosed with an aneurysmal SAH, confirmed by diagnostic angiogram, were followed in neuro-intensive care unit (ICU), neuro-step-down, neuroscience unit, and inpatient rehabilitation.


Results: There were a total of 226 sleep events. A sleep event encompassed a recorded start and end time on a single date. Each event included several sleep cycles. Each sleep cycle consisted of wakefulness, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. In 79 sleep events, light and deep sleep did add up to more than 4 hours; only 38 sleep events indicated more than 90 minutes of REM/night; 61 events showed the cycle of light-deep-light-REM cycles; 80 events showed 3 to 5 REM periods/night; and only 46 events demonstrated that the early-morning REM cycle was the longest. The average number of REM cycles increased from ICU (n = 4.6) to rehabilitation (n = 6.5). The percentage of days with sleep cycles also increased from ICU to rehabilitation (42 to 64).


Discussion: "Normal" sleep patterns are disrupted in aSAH patients throughout their hospitalization. Data in this study revealed that the patients do sleep; however, it is rarely organized. Patients were not always able to progress through the expected sleep cycle of light to deep to light to REM. Hospitalized aSAH patients do engage in REM sleep, but its pattern is abnormal. Staff should strategize on minimizing interruptions, clustering care, and minimizing sounds. Nurses should advocate for the frequency of assessments and vital signs based on hospital/unit policy and individual patient needs.