For people recovering from a traumatic brain injury, sleep is especially important, but people with brain injury often have trouble getting the quantity and quality of sleep they need.
The importance of sleep
During sleep, your brain and body recharge. Your muscles rest. Your brain sets down memories and refreshes some of its connections that allow it to function.
Sleep problems after brain injury
Sleep disturbance is one of the most common symptoms following a brain injury. Not getting good, regular sleep can impact your whole world. In fact, studies have shown that sleep disorders are three times more common in people with brain injury than in the general population. Nearly 60 percent of people with TBI experience long-term difficulties with sleep. Women are more likely to be affected than men, and issues with sleep are more likely to develop as a person gets older.
Here are some side effects of not sleeping well:
- Deepening depression and anxiety
- A drop in your sense of well-being
- Lack of energy
- Increased irritability
- Higher incidence of traffic or workplace accidents
- Increased fatigue
What causes sleep problems?
Sleep is a complex process that involves many parts of the brain, so a person with a brain injury may experience all sorts of different problems, including insomnia, narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness, and mixed-up sleep patterns. What can cause these issues?
- Changes in breathing control
- Physical and chemical changes
- Alcohol and drug use
- Caffeine and nicotine
- Daytime napping
- Physical inactivity
Exhausted? What can you do?
Health professionals recommend changes in behavior and environment for treating sleep issues. These can include strategies like:
- Getting up at the same time each day and going to sleep at the same time at night
- Not napping for more than 20 minutes during the day
- Avoiding eating, drinking caffeine, or smoking several hours before bedtime
- Getting regular exercise and eating a healthful diet
- Creating a restful atmosphere in your bedroom
If sleep patterns do not improve, a doctor can run tests and, in some instances, prescribe medications to help.
Every small change you make toward getting regular, quality sleep will be a step toward feeling more rested, refreshed and energetic during the day.