Why Do So Many Survivors Have Sleep Disorders After Brain Injury?
January 2018, Written by Bill Herrin
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January’s Brain Injury Journey Bulletin dives into the new year with a topic that often keeps people up at night…sleep disorders after TBI.
Sleep. It can be elusive, and one of the most frustrating things to accomplish after brain injury – especially on a consistent basis. Quite often, sleep disorders can take hold after brain injury – and cause everything from anxiousness to feeling depressed, tired, irritable, and more. In this issue of the Brain Injury Journey Bulletin, we’re going to take a look at all the things that sleep can affect, and some ways to conquer a sleep disorder after TBI.
Tossing and Turning
When your quality of life is being affected by lack of sleep, the desperation of wanting to rest can actually hinder you from getting the rest you need. Here are some changes in sleep patterns after TBI that are quite common:
- difficulty falling asleep easily
- trouble staying asleep throughout the night
- waking up very early in the morning and not falling back to sleep
- falling asleep and awakening far later than desired
- purposely staying up late at night to get things done
- You get into bed around 10 but it takes you several hours to fall asleep.
- You wake up frequently during the night for no major reason.
- You wake up at 4 in the morning and cannot fall back to sleep.
- You’re up late every night working on the computer and your partner keeps asking
you to come to bed.
Sleep Disorders and Other Factors
There are lots of different sleep disorders, and they can involve many different parts of the brain. Here are some of the more well-known sleep disorders that people encounter: Insomnia, extreme drowsiness, altered sleep patterns and Narcolepsy. Other disorders that can directly contribute to lack of sleep are Restless Leg Syndrome, teeth grinding or clenching, involuntary movements of your arms/legs during sleep, sleepwalking, sleep apnea, etc. Other factors that can deprive you from sleep are pain, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, depression…and naps. A poorly timed nap (late in the day) obviously can end up backfiring on you later that night! It’s best to limit the length of naps so they help you get through the day, but don’t keep you up at night.
When PTSD is involved, especially in military veterans, sleep disorders can disturb sleep to the point of a person dreading bedtime, and efforts to quiet the symptoms with drugs or alcohol can make symptoms worse in the long run. Hyper-alertness, flashbacks, or nightmares can play a big part in keeping PTSD survivors up at night.
Research has found that sleep disorders are 3 times more common in persons with TBI than the general population, that about 60% of TBI survivors have ongoing problems with sleeping, that women are more affected than men…and that aging increases the likelihood of sleep problems.
This group has been researching how people sleep, and they have collected some great information about how drug addiction and recovery can affect a person’s ability to have healthy, restorative sleep….along with addressing other sleep disorders. You can read the full guide at this link.
Sleep, when achieved regularly, brings a bevy of positive side-effects, and is an essential component of mental and physical well-being. It can affect healing of the brain and body, improve short-term memory and attention, improvement of your mood, and it can even reduce physical pain. The main thing that sleep obviously provides is that you feel rested and more alert!
How You Sleep Also Matters
Being uncomfortable can affect your sleep more than you realize, too. Here’s a link to an article on WebMD.com that covers different sleep positions, and how they can help (or hinder) sleep, or even cause pain in your back, neck, etc. Here’s the link.
Talk It Over With Your Doctor
There are plenty of over-the-counter and off-the-shelf medications specifically made to help you “catch some ZZZZZ’s” – but it’s very important that persons with brain injury talk to their doctor about the side effects of sleep medications before using any of them.
Brain injury presents a variety of issues that can cause stress, and the stress can easily parlay itself into loss of sleep. If loss of sleep is wearing you down, or slowing your recovery after TBI, you should speak with a physician right away. Once you seek medical advice, the doctor can help you discover the causes and effects of your sleep issues, and discuss all possibilities of easing the loss of sleep. From sleep labs to prescription medications, to discussing techniques for easing your mind before bedtime, your doctor will hopefully help you resolve the sleep deprivation to some degree.
The person you are with little or no sleep, versus the one you are when well rested can be like the difference in…well, like night and day! Tips for managing your sleep schedule, and how to improve it, are available in this easy-to-read tip card – available on our website. It’s titled “Sleep after brain injury”, and if you go to this link, you can get a free tip card and catalog. Here’s the link. for the catalog & tip card. Here’s more info on the SLEEP tip card.
New Year, New Sleep Habits?
With a new year started, you can reference any issues imaginable that relate to PTSD, TBI, ABI, brain injury, concussion, and more, on Lash & Associates’ blog page. Specifically relating to the new year, realistic resolutions after TBI, here is a blog article by Donna O’Donnell Figurski that talks all about it. Here’s the link.
Knowing that stress and anxiety (after TBI) can take its toll, this blog post by Marilyn Lash and Taryn Stejskal, discusses managing stress, and the symptoms of stress that become evident when they’re taking their toll on your health and well-being. Here’s the link.
Blog Posts Galore On A Wide Range of TBI Issues
Feel free to keyword search our entire collection of blog posts, many written by well-known experts, clinicians in the field of brain injury, and also people who have survived brain injury, had family members that have a TBI, and much more. It’s a treasure trove of information that is available for FREE, 24/7/365. It’s all for you at this link!
Resolution of sleeping issues is a “2018 Resolution” for the new year that many have added to their lists to achieve. We hope that you have a great new year, and that you rest assured…and sleep well!