Sleep Disturbances Occurs Frequently in Patients with Autoimmune Encephalitis

Autoimmune encephalitis once considered rare, is becoming an ever-broadening clinical phenotype, with doctors finding more cases. There is a need to determine the prevalence of sleep disturbances in autoimmune encephalitis patients, and to clarify the relationship between specific autoantibodies and disruptions in sleep.

In a recent review published in “The Lancet Neurology” titled “Sleep disorders in autoimmune encephalitis this illness can affect any network of the brain related to sleep and thus results in a variety of sleep disorders. The four major kinds of sleep disorders — SDB, insomnia, parasomnias and hypersomnolence — can occur in patients with autoimmune encephalitis (AE).

When Do Disorders Occur?

Usually, sleep disorders happen during the acute phase of AE. When patients see a neurologist, they can describe various symptoms relating to poor or lost sleep. Sleep and the brain are only beginning to be understood. 

Unfortunately for patients, the sleep disorders generally persist after the acute phase, making it harder to recover. All major types of sleep disorders can happen with autoimmune encephalitis.

Recognizing and diagnosing sleep disorders right away is essential, as proper treatment will help the patient recover and have a better quality of life.

Types of Sleep Disorders seen with Autoimmune Encephaltis

Because AE affects multiple neural networks, a variety of sleep disorders can present themselves. Some patients may struggle with multiple sleep issues at once. For instance, in anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis almost all patients experience insomnia without daytime sleepiness during the acute phase. This is followed by hypersomnia during recovery, even without medication. 

It’s crucial for a physician treating these patients to look for signs of sleep disorders and arrange treatment. It may be best to refer the individual to a sleep specialist if first-line treatments don’t work. As more is learned about AE and how it affects the brain network, we’ll understand more about these sleep disorders and how to treat them effectively.


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