Sleep problems are one of the more common effects of a brain injury. However, there are different types of sleep problems, and a diagnosis needs to be accurate for the prescribed treatment to be effective.
A recent case study was conducted of a man who had suffered a severe brain injury. He was experiencing cognitive impairments, aggressive behavior, and sleep problems. His sleep problems were not alleviated with sedatives, which are normally prescribed for insomnia. His doctors determined that he was suffering from sleep-wake cycle disorder, a problem that can occur as a result of a traumatic brain injury. He was treated with agomelatine, a medication that increases levels of melatonin-a hormone important for the sleep-wake cycle.
Not only did the patient's sleep problems immediately improve, but so did his aggressive behavior. The positive effects were sustained for over a year. This case study underlines the importance of a determining the correct diagnosis for people experiencing sleep issues. Sleep-wake cycle disorder can easily be mistaken for insomnia, and mistakenly treated with sedatives. Sedatives are not an effective treatment for sleep-wake disorder, and can sometimes worsen memory, attention, and mood.
O'Neill B, Gardani M, Findlay M, et al. Challenging behaviour and sleep cycle disorder following brain injury: A preliminary response to agomelatine treatment. Brain Injury. (March 2014).