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Circadian rest‐activity misalignment in critically ill medical intensive care unit patients

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Circadian alignment of rest-activity rhythms is an essential biological process that may be vulnerable to misalignment in critically ill patients. We evaluated circadian rest-activity rhythms in critically ill patients and their association with baseline (e.g. age) and clinical (e.g. mechanical ventilation status) variables, along with intensive care unit light-dark cycles. Using wrist actigraphy, we collected 48-hr activity and light exposure data from critically ill patients in a tertiary care medical intensive care unit. We evaluated circadian rest-activity rhythms using COSINOR and non-parametric circadian rhythm analysis models, and stratified these data across baseline and clinical variables. We used linear regression to evaluate the association of circadian rest-activity and light-dark exposure rhythms. In COSINOR and non-parametric circadian rhythm analysis analyses, the 34 medical intensive care unit patients completing 48-hr actigraphy recordings exhibited mean MESOR (mean activity levels of a fitted curve) and amplitudes of 0.50 ± 0.32 and 0.20 ± 0.19 movements per 30-s epoch, with high interdaily variability. Patients who were older, mechanically ventilated, sedated, restrained and with higher organ failure scores tended to exhibit greater circadian rest-activity misalignment, with three of 34 (9%) patients exhibiting no circadian rhythmicity. Circadian light-dark exposure misalignment was observed as well and was associated with rest-activity misalignment (p = 0.03). Critically ill patients in our MICU experienced profound circadian rest-activity misalignment, with mostly weak or absent rhythms, along with circadian light-dark exposure misalignment. Potentially modifiable factors contributing to rest-activity misalignment (i.e. mechanical ventilation, restraints, low daytime light levels) highlight possible targets for future improvement efforts.

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