What kind of sleep problems can occur?

Many people who have brain injuries suffer from sleep disturbances. Sleep problems can mean sleeping too much, having problems falling asleep, or waking up multiple times at night. Sleep can be very complex. The location and severity of the injury may determine what types of sleep issues a person may have. However, it is important to have a person up in a wheelchair or upright in a bed when it is not time to sleep. When it is time to sleep, the room should be quiet and the lights and TV off.

Sleep and Traumatic Brain Injury
From Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center
Information on some of the sleep issues a person with a brain injury might have.

What kinds of medicines can be used to help my loved one sleep better?

Sometimes medications are needed to help patients sleep well. Each of these medications is effective in helping with sleep in healthy adults, but they have not been studied in persons with DoC. These medications should be used only after talking with your doctor.

  • Melatonin – This is a natural substance that can be purchased over the counter. Melatonin is usually produced by the brain to facilitate sleep.
  • Trazodone – This is an FDA- approved anti-depressant medication that is frequently used to help with sleep. The most Most common side effect is early morning fatigue, which usually improves with decreasing the dose.
  • Zolpidem – This is an FDA- approved sleep medication. Zolpidem can be used to help with sleep in people who do not respond to other medications. Side effects can include confusion and daytime sleepiness. There are studies that show paradoxical awakening in small numbers of patients with disorders of consciousness.