Sleep Disorders After a Traumatic Brain Injury

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April 05, 2019
Edward Smith

Traumatic Brain Injury and Sleep Disorders

One of the most serious injuries that an individual might suffer in an accident is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI is diagnosed when an impact to the head or neck area results in either a temporary or a permanent change in the function of the brain. There are many different ways that an individual might suffer a head injury. Some of these include:

  • Being struck by or with an object
  • A slip and fall injury on a slick floor or an icy sidewalk
  • Involvement in a car accident
  • An auto versus pedestrian collision
  • A fall from a great height

Unfortunately, unlike other parts of the body, the neurons of the brain do not regenerate following an impact. Therefore, many of the changes following a TBI will last for the rest of that person’s life.

A Study: Sleep Disorders After a Traumatic Brain Injury

In a study that was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, a team of researchers investigated sleep difficulties in individuals who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Sleep, its rhythm, and its effectiveness are controlled by the brain. Therefore, it makes sense that issues with sleep could develop after a TBI. The pineal gland, which sits beneath the brain, regulates sleep. It helps shift the brain between the various phases of sleep (including REM and NREM sleep) and helps keep people stay asleep. Some of the most commonly reported problems with sleep include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Issues falling asleep when getting into bed
  • Chronic headaches during the day

There are many reasons why someone might have trouble sleeping so it is important for those suffering from sleep problems to meet with a trained medical professional. The problems could be related to a traumatic brain injury.

The Design of the Study

The goal of the researchers was to investigate the relationship between traumatic brain injuries and sleep problems. The researchers identified ten different individuals who had suffered a traumatic brain injury and were reporting excessive sleepiness during the day. The researchers invited these individuals into their sleep center to undergo further testing. The individuals were connected to a polysomnography machine, which measures the waves of the brain during sleep. This allowed the researchers to watch the individuals progress through the various phases of sleep (or wake) during the study.

The Results of the Study

The researchers identified several disorders during the study. They included:

Sleep Apnea: Some of the individuals were diagnosed with sleep apnea, meaning that they stopped breathing while asleep. Sometimes, sleep apnea results from something that plugs the airway. In other cases, it could be related to damage to the brain. When the body stops breathing, its oxygen concentration drops. Individuals wake up and take a deep breath; however, this disrupts their sleep process, making them tired.

Narcolepsy: Two of the individuals were diagnosed with narcolepsy, which means they fell asleep randomly during testing. On the sleep study, this would show up as a rapid progression from wake to deep sleep.

Posttraumatic Hypersomnia: In this disorder, individuals have excessive sleep requirements following a serious traumatic accident. This can make it very hard to keep a job, attend school, or maintain relationships with family and friends. While there are treatment options, this can be a serious quality of life issue.

Even though the ten individuals in the study had symptoms of a sleep disorder and had been diagnosed with a TBI before testing, this study still shows that sleep disorders are common following a head injury. Individuals who have been diagnosed with a TBI should watch their sleep habits closely. They might need to be tested for a sleep disorder if they exhibit the symptoms above.

Watch YouTube Video: Common Sleep Issues After TBI and/or PTSD. In the video below, Dr. Anthony Panettiere with Brain Line discusses the sleep problems that can occur after traumatic brain injury or PTSD.

Contacting an SF Brain Injury Lawyer

The diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury should always be taken seriously. These individuals can have life-altering complications. The degree of uncertainty can also leave individuals wondering what they should do next. As a first step, it is a good idea to meet with a San Francisco brain injury lawyer. Some of the resources that an injury attorney could share include:

  • Reviewing the records from the accident to make sure that the details are considered appropriately.
  • Acting as an objective presence who can help families make tough decisions during a challenging time.
  • Assisting families in pursuing damages related to the accident, any injuries, and emotional suffering.
  • Moving a case to trial when necessary.

No family should ever have to face this situation alone. Trust a brain injury lawyer in the Bay Area to provide professional assistance. You and your family could be owed a significant financial award.

Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers in the Bay Area

I’m Ed Smith, a Bay Area brain injury lawyer. Sleep is an essential part of any recovery and, following a head or brain injury, someone’s typical sleep pattern can be disturbed. If a member of your family has suffered a traumatic brain injury and subsequently had trouble sleeping, please contact me at (415) 805-7284 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.
I am a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Top One Percent, a National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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