TBIs Linked to Sleeping Disorders

How many traumatic brain injuries happen each year?

Traumatic brain injuries are a significant national problem, with an estimated between 1.6 and three million people suffering from TBIs each year. In recent years, more research has been conducted to examine the long-term effects of TBIs. Previous studies have linked severe TBIs to emotional and learning problems in children, while repeated TBIs are thought to contribute to memory loss and erratic behavior in some athletes. Now, a new study has been released in a special issue of NeuroRehabilitation which examines the link between TBIs and sleep disorders, along with options for treatment.

Sleep Disorders Are an Under-Recognized Problem Following TBIs

Sleep disorders have emerged as one of the most common problems experienced by patients after suffering a TBI. Those with a traumatic brain injury may find themselves experiencing fatigue, sleepiness, and insomnia. Injury to the brain appears to interfere with the sleep-wake cycle, and sleep disturbances can result in longer hospitalizations and higher rates of disability among TBI patients. By treating and minimizing sleep disturbances in TBI patients, patients tend to show improved cognitive functioning, better moods, and less anxiety.
Despite the known correlation between TBIs and sleep disorders, many physibcians and hospitals do little to address the issue. The study released in NeuroRehabilitation suggests using a multifaceted approach to promptly treat sleep issues in TBI patients. First, the authors recommend physicians use non-pharmacological interventions in the immediate aftermath of the injury. Options include setting a bedtime routine, creating a restful sleep environment, minimizing caffeine, and avoiding screen time during the evening hours. These approaches can be implemented in the hospital, with discharged patients sent home with instructions.

For TBI patients that need additional support to address a sleep disorder, pharmacological methods can be used. There are several options, including hypnotic agents, melatonin, and antidepressants. Use of drugs is seen as beneficial because with improved sleep, the TBI patient can recover quicker and more fully.
We now know that a lack of sleep can impact nearly all of our body functions. Individuals who have experienced brain trauma require sleep all the more to heal from the injury. TBI patients should ask their doctor for recommendations as to what they can do if they experience a sleep issue post-injury.

Posted in: Brain Injuries