The prevalence of sleep disturbances was studied in patients with severe non-ulcer dyspepsia. It was also considered if the change in sleep pattern was associated with changes in the rhythmic fasting motor activity of the gastrointestinal tract, and if motor events correlate with the patient's symptoms. Motor activity in the duodenum was monitored over a 24 hour period under freely ambulatory conditions in 10 healthy controls and in 10 patients with severe non-ulcer dyspepsia using a transnasally placed catheter with six solid state pressure transducers connected to a digital data logging device. Symptoms and sleep disturbance were assessed by questionnaire and diary. Based on their symptoms, the patients were separated into two groups: those with dyspepsia symptoms only (non-ulcer dyspepsia; n = 5) and those with dyspepsia and additional functional symptoms thought to arise from the lower gastrointestinal tract (non-ulcer dyspepsia+irritable bowel syndrome; n = 5). When compared with either the control or the non-ulcer dyspepsia+irritable bowel syndrome group, non-ulcer dyspepsia patients had a considerably decreased number of migrating motor complexes during the nocturnal period (0.7 v 4.6), a decreased percentage of nocturnal phase I (5.2% v 78.0%), and an increased percentage of the nocturnal period in phase II (94% v 15.4%). Patients with non-ulcer dyspepsia+irritable bowel syndrome were not different from normal controls. Four of the non-ulcer dyspepsia patients and all of the non-ulcer dyspepsia+irritable bowel syndrome patients reported difficulties with sleep. Clusters of high amplitude tonic and phasic activity, not accompanied by subjective reports of discomfort were noted in several patients in both groups during the study. In eight of 10 patients, abdominal pain was reported during normal motor activity, while in one patient, pain correlated with phase III of the migrating motor complex. In contrast with previous reports in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, our findings suggest an abnormality of diurnal rhythmicity--shown in changed sleep and changed rhythmic duodenal motor activity--in patients with chronic abdominal pain thought to arise from the upper gastrointestinal tract.
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