After stroke, the injured brain undergoes extensive reorganization and reconnection. Sleep may play a role in synaptic plasticity underlying stroke recovery. To test this hypothesis, we investigated topographic sleep electroencephalographic characteristics, as a measure of brain reorganization, in the acute and chronic stages after hemispheric stroke. We studied eight patients with unilateral stroke in the supply territory of the middle cerebral artery and eight matched controls. All subjects underwent a detailed clinical examination including assessment of stroke severity, sleep habits and disturbances, anxiety and depression, and high-density electroencephalogram examination with 128 electrodes during sleep. The recordings were performed within 10 days after stroke in all patients, and in six patients also 3 months later. During sleep, we found higher slow-wave and theta activity over the affected hemisphere in the infarct area in the acute and chronic stage of stroke. Slow-wave, theta activity and spindle frequency range power over the affected hemisphere were lower in comparison to the non-affected side in a peri-infarct area in the patients' group, which persisted over time. Conversely, in wakefulness, only an increase of delta, theta activity and a slowing of alpha activity over the infarct area were found. Sleep slow-wave activity correlated with stroke severity and outcome. Stroke might have differential effects on the generation of delta activity in wakefulness and sleep slow waves (1-8 Hz). Sleep electroencephalogram changes over both the affected and non-affected hemispheres reflect the acute dysfunction caused by stroke and the plastic changes underlying its recovery. Moreover, these changes correlate with stroke severity and outcome.