Sleep disruption is common post TBI - treatment improves recovery

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Brian injury has become a significant cause of disability in Canada. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer concussion and TBI in Canada every year. These are caused by car accidents, slip and falls, sporting accidents, work place accidents, and physical assault.

We hear a lot about brain injury after effects such as mood swings, sensitivity to light and sound, difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness. One symptom we don’t hear much about is sleeping disorders. Sleep disorders are one of the most common symptoms experienced by patients following traumatic brain injury (TBI). The lack of regular sleep makes recovery more difficult than it should be from TBI. Many patients aren’t getting the treatment they need for their sleep disorders. Diagnosis of sleep disorders is key to treatment.

A new study released last year examined the effect of TBI on sleep function and how sleep disorders impact physiological, emotional, and cognitive function. The researchers noted that currently, hospital stays post TBI do a poor job of recognizing and treating sleep problems. Restful sleep is hard to attain in a hospital setting due to monitoring equipment, facility design, frequent patient checks and nursing interventions. Restful sleep that minimizes disruption in sleep-wake cycles is linked to improvement in fatigue, mood, cognitive function and anxiety issues.

Researchers investigated drug therapies using nonbenzodiazepine GABA-A agonists, melatonin, and antidepressants to treat the insomnia and other sleep disturbances. They concluded that for those suffering post TBI sleep disturbance drug intervention may allow for better night time rest, less daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and better cognition. They noted that the use of benzodiazepine GABA-A seemed to contribute to impaired neurological recovery for some people and transient memory loss.

You can read more about the study in the medical journal Neurorehabilitation