Sleep Well

Sleep Well

Of all the physical reactions I experienced after my husband’s brain injury, I think exhaustion was the most difficult to deal with, the most unbearable, and the hardest to overcome. From the moment I learned that Hugh was awake and screaming at the accident scene, I could not lie down in my bed without imagining that chaotic scene and the pain he must have felt. Many nights, I left my bed and paced the house, surfed the web, or tried to meditate and forget the images in my mind. When those thoughts began to ebb away, worry took over. The silence of the night leaves great space to worry. Will he get better? Can we pay our bills? How is this affecting the kids? It’s hard to admit that for six months after Hugh’s accident, I never slept through the night unless I took a sleeping pill.

In her article, Goodnight. Sleep Clean, Maria Konnikova states that “…there is a difference between the kind of fleeting sleep loss we sometimes experience and the chronic deprivation that comes from shift work, insomnia and the like. In one set of studies, the Veasey lab found that while our brain can recover quite readily from short-term sleep loss, chronic prolonged wakefulness and sleep disruption stresses the brain’s metabolism. The result is the degeneration of key neurons involved in alertness and proper cortical function and buildup of proteins associated with aging and neural degeneration.”

This explains why I felt 10 years older on nights when I tossed and turned for hours. For caregivers, sleep is essential. When we don’t sleep well, or don’t get enough sleep, we suffer any number of problems the next day — from feeling irritable to experiencing poor concentration, attention, and judgment.

And it’s not only caregivers who are losing sleep. According to Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg, sleep medicine specialist, people with TBI may be losing sleep as well. “In several studies, the proportion of persons with TBI who are found to have sleep apnea is 30 to 50 percent,” he says.

Wow, what a combination! Sleepy, irritable caregivers with sleepy, irritable loved ones! Luckily, if people recognize this problem, they can find help.

Signs of sleeping problems after TBI include fatigue, moodiness, sleep disruptions, and snoring. Dr. Rosenberg mentions these signs as indications of a sleep disorder that can be treated. Getting a referral for a sleep evaluation may be helpful.

As a caregiver, here are a few strategies that helped me toss the sleeping pills, and finally return to a normal sleeping pattern:

  1. Exercise tires my body and also helps me calm down. A walk after dinner became part of my routine with Hugh, and has helped us both sleep more soundly at night.
  2. Switching to decaf coffee and tea helped. I might have benefited even more from cutting back on dark chocolate, but I didn’t, so I’ll never know.
  3. Avoiding upsetting subjects like money problems or medical worries in the evening helped. It’s hard to fall asleep right after a tense discussion. Reserve the evening for winding down, reading, or sweet pillow talk!
  4. Guided imagery recordings at bedtime pre-occupied my mind so the negative thoughts that usually crept in were pushed aside.
  5. Counseling helped me better understand my own worries and anxieties, making it easier to manage them. Speaking to a professional about sleep problems could prove helpful for many caregivers.

Putting some extra effort into ensuring a good night’s sleep is worthwhile because the benefits are so great. Adequate sleep could help your loved one improve his or her outlook and performance, and if everyone sleeps well, relationships may improve, too.

There’s no feeling quite like bounding out of bed full of energy in the morning. Everything looks a little brighter and better after a good night’s sleep.


  2. New York Times Online, Opinion Section. “Goodnight. Sleep Clean.” By Maria Konnikova. Jan. 11 2014.

Comments (4)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I sleep about 5-6 hours a night but wouldn't w/o a sleeping pill of course having ADD sure don't help either!! And then u add in stress anxiety and depression and it really stinks!!

As a survivor myself, l can attest to the importance of sleep yet the lack there of after a TBI. The best way that l found to settle my nerves and transition my thoughts was to find a quiet spot out on the deck in the time before bed and listen to music that had the names of friends in the lyrics that had helped me in my journey of recovery. As l wound down, l felt at peace with myself and remembered my friends names this way. To this day, the song BETH by the band KISS has become my favorite and still helps me to fall asleep.

All I have to add to this is, IT"S ALL TRUE.  I have been using a strong sedative just to get 4-5 hours per night.  The sedative (very strong) doesn't even work.

Anyway, fatigue, irritable, affects on my diet, physical disabilities are amplified all by not getting enough NATURAL sleep w/o sedatives.  I wouldn't be getting 4-5 hours sleep at night without them, I've tried for over a decade to stay away from sleeping sedatives and it just wasn't getting me no where.

Since I was desperate, I pleaded with my doctor who basically prescribed a very heavy sedative that gives me the luxury of 4-5 hours per night.  I know I'm getting 'some' sleep, but not enough.  I know w/ sedatives, the sleep I am getting is far from NATURAL and RESTORATIVE.  

I've been to sleep clinics, no on a CPAP at night and due to my disability, I'm unable to exercise appropriately, enough to make a difference.

I honestly believe that if Marijuana that was formulated for sleeping would help probably 60% of sufferer's but can't get it. And if I could get it, it would be illegal in my state (FL) and would not be "formulated" to help me sleep.  When you "buy" it off the streets, illegally,  you don't know what your getting and what is safe or not safe.  

My wish is to have someone stand up and shout.  Make it happen in Florida, Legalize the use of Medical Marijuana.

All we're asking for is a chance @ feeling better in many areas of our lives.  

Good luck to you and Good luck to me on getting some well deserved ZZZzzzz's.

After my husband's brain injury I woke up every time he moved. If he got out of bed I would follow him as he had no balance and would fall easily. A year and a half later I still can not fall asleep until he does even though he has healed quite a bit and his balance is much closer to normal. We've been through a lot in the past year and a half, we are much closer but we still struggle with will we be able to pay the bills as he still is not back to work full time.