Sleep Medications May Have Unwanted Side Effects

Sleep and Traumatic Brain Injury

A brief summary of current research.

The Effect of Sleep Medications on Cognitive Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury

Larson, EB & Zollman, FS (2010). Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, Vol. 25(1), pp 61–67.

This literature review concludes that the use of benzodiazepenes (like Xanax and Valium) and similar drugs can impair cognitive function when used to treat sleep problems after TBI. The authors highlight some alternate treatments such as trazodone and melatonin agonists; however, they suggest further research is needed on their use for persons with TBI.

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Posted on BrainLine March 5, 2010.

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.

Had a mild hypoxic brain injury in July of this year, developed mild cognitive impairments, lack of emotional control, persistent insomnia, and was prescribed Xanax and Valium for everyday sleep use for two months. After one month of use cognitive problems worsened dramatically, resulting in memory problems, generalized confusion, visual disturbances, and extreme difficulty with reading comprehension. Finally was advised to stop sleep medications after two months but symptoms did not abate. There is lots of research showing that brain injury is worsened and that natural recovery prevented by use of benzodiazepines ( and Has anyone else has similar experience?

MTBI 7 months ago. Executive Functions hindered. Sleep issues resolved with 10mg of Belsomra. 7+hrs consistently.

to the Apr 21st, 2014 commenter: How did the Adderall help with sleep? I'm curious because I also have experience with tbi and adderall having the paradoxical effect of causing sleepiness... but it isn't consistent! any extra info would be very helpful. thanks for your comment regardless!

I'm a TBI survivor, in 2008 I was unconscious 28 days.  Sleep has been a MAJOR issue for many years. Tried many prescriptions, including Trazodone. Miserable life, on occasion took my son to school in a taxi and missed MANY events. I've experienced the many negative side effects, impaired cognitive abilities are further hampered by sleep prescriptions. Question for me ended up being if the current side effect was worth a little more sleep, vs. just OTC melatonin.

Finally my doctor tried Adderall to help with other cognitive impairments. Helped but nothing major, increased the dose and routine several times. OMG, drastically helped my sleep. Still on Melatonin & Lunesta but sleeping a solid 7 to 8 hours at night. Previously it was only 5 to 6.

Granted I’m sure my experience was rather unique but that’s a traumatic brain injury.  Might have general similarities but we are all individually different, the brain is complex.  Key point is patience and to keep trying, in “medical terms” I may not achieve much but I’ve made leaps and bounds improving my personal life... it’s all about perspective. 

Take pride in every achievement and try to do it again, nothing is too minor!  Savior has been my elementary age son, eventually back under my custody.  Gave me the motivation keep trying to achieve more, take pride the small achievements.  Don’t give up, stay away from potentially harmful habits and take pride in the “minor” achievements… will take many years and be a continual process but hang in there, it can get better.