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Self-reported sleep disturbances in renal transplant recipients

Hanna Burkhalter15, Daniel P Brunner2, Anna Wirz-Justice3, Christian Cajochen3, Terri E Weaver4, Jürg Steiger5, Thomas Fehr6, Reto M Venzin7 and Sabina De Geest18*

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Nursing Science, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

2 Centre for Sleep Medicine Hirslanden, Zürich, Switzerland

3 Centre for Chronobiology, Psychiatric Clinics, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

4 Department of Biobehavioral and Health Sciences, University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing, Chicago, USA

5 Division of Transplant Immunology and Nephrology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland

6 Division of Nephrology, University Hospital Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

7 Division of Nephrology, University Hospital Bern, Bern, Switzerland

8 Center for Health Services and Nursing Research, KU Leuven, Belgium

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Citation and License

BMC Nephrology 2013, 14:220  doi:10.1186/1471-2369-14-220

Published: 10 October 2013



Poor sleep quality (SQ) and daytime sleepiness (DS) are common in renal transplant (RTx) recipients; however, related data are rare. This study describes the prevalence and frequency of self-reported sleep disturbances in RTx recipients.


This cross-sectional study included 249 RTx recipients transplanted at three Swiss transplant centers. All had reported poor SQ and / or DS in a previous study. With the Survey of Sleep (SOS) self-report questionnaire, we screened for sleep and health habits, sleep history, main sleep problems and sleep-related disturbances. To determine a basis for preliminary sleep diagnoses according to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD), 164 subjects were interviewed (48 in person, 116 via telephone and 85 refused). Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data and to determine the frequencies and prevalences of specific sleep disorders.


The sample had a mean age of 59.1 ± 11.6 years (60.2% male); mean time since Tx was 11.1 ± 7.0 years. The most frequent sleep problem was difficulty staying asleep (49.4%), followed by problems falling asleep (32.1%). The most prevalent sleep disturbance was the need to urinate (62.9%), and 27% reported reduced daytime functionality. Interview data showed that most suffered from the first ICSD category: insomnias.


Though often disregarded in RTx recipients, sleep is an essential factor of wellbeing. Our findings show high prevalences and incidences of insomnias, with negative impacts on daytime functionality. This indicates a need for further research on the clinical consequences of sleep disturbances and the benefits of insomnia treatment in RTx recipients.

Renal transplantation; Sleep disturbances; Sleep quality; Daytime sleepiness