Neurochemical Research

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 284–292 | Cite as

Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in Hospitalized Patients with Decompensated Cirrhosis: Effect of Light Therapy

  • M. De Rui
  • B. Middleton
  • A. Sticca
  • A. Gatta
  • P. Amodio
  • D. J. Skene
  • S. Montagnese
Original Paper


Patients with liver cirrhosis often exhibit sleep–wake abnormalities, which are, at least to some extent, circadian in origin. A relatively novel non-pharmacological approach to circadian disruption is appropriately timed bright light therapy. The aims of this pilot study were to investigate sleep–wake characteristics of a well-characterized population of inpatients with cirrhosis, and to evaluate the efficacy of bright light therapy in the hospital setting. Twelve consecutive inpatients with cirrhosis underwent complete sleep–wake assessment, to include qualitative and semi-quantitative (actigraphic) indices of night-time sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, diurnal preference, habitual sleep timing, quality of life, mood and circadian rhythmicity [i.e. urine collections for measurement of the melatonin metabolite 6-sulphatoxymelatonin (aMT6s)]. Patients showed extremely impaired night sleep quality (Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index global score: 16.3 ± 2.1) and daytime sleepiness was common (Epworth Sleepiness Scale: 8.3 ± 3.2). Five patients were randomly assigned to a single room in which lighting was controlled in relation to timing, spectral composition and intensity (lights on at 06:30 and off at 22:30, blue-enriched, more intense light in the morning, red-enriched, less intense light in the afternoon/evening); the others stayed in identical rooms with standard lighting. Sleep diaries revealed poor sleep quality, prolonged sleep latency (67 ± 138 min) and a reduced sleep efficiency (69 ± 21 %). These features were confirmed by actigraphy (sleep efficiency: 71 ± 13 %; fragmentation index: 55 ± 15 %). Quality of life was globally impaired, and mood moderately depressed (Beck Depression Inventory: 19.4 ± 7.9). Seven patients underwent serial urine collections: no circadian aMT6s rhythm was detected in any of them, neither at baseline, nor during the course of hospitalization in either room (n = 4). In conclusion, sleep and circadian rhythms in hospitalized, decompensated patients with cirrhosis are extremely compromised. Treatment with bright light therapy did not show obvious, beneficial effects, most likely in relation to the severity of disturbance at baseline.


Liver cirrhosis Sleep Circadian rhythms Light therapy Melatonin 



This work was part-funded by a grant from the Italian Ministry of Health to MS (Giovani Ricercatori 2009); Stockgrand Ltd. (UK) undertook the urinary 6-sulphatoxymelatonin assays; Derungs-Waldmann Illuminotecnica (Italy) provided the lighting equipment; DJS is a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holder.

Conflict of interest

Prof. Debra Skene and Dr. Benita Middleton are co-directors of Stockgrand Ltd.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. De Rui
    • 1
  • B. Middleton
    • 2
  • A. Sticca
    • 1
  • A. Gatta
    • 1
  • P. Amodio
    • 1
  • D. J. Skene
    • 2
  • S. Montagnese
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medicine (DIMED)University of PadovaPaduaItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Health and Medical SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

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