Sleep dysfunction is common after a traumatic brain injury, and can negatively affect mood, cognition and pain, as well as diminishing the potential for recovery. Even though the negative of effect of sleep on recovery is well-established, it is not routinely assessed in clinics.
A recent review assessed the current gaps for assessing sleep dysfunction after a traumatic brain injury. They found that people with a traumatic brain injury tend to under-report sleep problems to their doctors. In order for a sleep dysfunction to be accurately diagnosed, patients should be assessed with a 1) subjective tool that can depict sleep patterns and daytime functioning over a duration of time, and 2) an objective measure that can help diagnose specific sleep patterns such as periodic movement disorder or narcolepsy.
Although hospitals and clinics frequently screen people who have suffered a brain injury for headaches, pain, visual changes, and nausea, they often fail to screen for sleep problems. The relationship between traumatic brain injury and sleep dysfunction is well-established in research, but ongoing education of both the need to assess for sleep problems, as well as the type of assessments that may be most useful, can help doctors and other clinicians recognize this relationship within their daily practice.
Mollayeva T, Colantonio A, Mollayeva S, & Shapiro C. Screening for sleep dysfunction after traumatic brain injury. Sleep Medicine. (December 2013).