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Traumatic Brain Injury-Sleep Disturbances

Karns & Kerrison

Sleep disturbances are one of the most common symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Studies show that up to 65% of individuals suffering from traumatic brain injury have symptoms from sleep disturbances.

Sleep is extremely important as while sleeping the brain refreshes the connections that allow it to function and physically the body including muscles get the rest that is needed.

Some of the side effects of not getting sufficient sleep are:

  • Deepening depression and anxiety;
  • Loss of sense of well-being;
  • Lack of energy;
  • Increased irritability;
  • Increased fatigue;
  • Increased lack of cognition and concentration.

Traumatic brain injury causing sleep disturbances causing the above side effects greatly multiply the symptoms of traumatic brain injury.

Sleep disturbances that can occur following traumatic brain injury are as follows:

  • Insomnia-Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep;
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and drowsiness;
  • Mixing up sleep patterns;
  • Narcolepsy-Falling asleep uncontrollably during the day.

Traumatic brain injury can cause these sleep disturbances in many ways including:

  • An injured brain may not be able to tell the body to fall asleep or wake up due to chemical changes;
  • Loss of the brain's ability to control breathing causing sleep apnea;
  • Medications taken following the brain injury may cause problems going to sleep or staying asleep;
  • Sleeping during the day and physical inactivity;
  • Pain;
  • Depression.

Ways to improve sleep following traumatic brain injury:

  • Follow a schedule using an alarm to wake up the same time each day;
  • Get enough exercise and physical activity;
  • Avoid excessive napping during the day;
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine;
  • Review medications with your physician;
  • Transcranial light therapy-Studies have shown that light emitting diodes (LED) is a promising tool for neurorehabilitation. LED is a painless, non-thermal treatment that helps cellular function of injured brain cells.
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