Sleep, Cognition, And Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

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Every year, about 1.4 million people in the United States are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Concussion or mild TBI is a phenomenon that affects individuals of many different walks of life. Some people have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury due to the hazardous nature of their jobs, some have suffered a concussion due to a sports’ related injury, and others have sustained a TBI from a motor vehicle accident. Mild TBI has a significant negative impact on functioning. Cognitive deficits and emotional instability are associated with mild TBI, negatively affecting one’s ability to return to the pre-existing level of functioning before injury.

One of the more prominent and debilitating effects of mild traumatic brain injury is the decline in cognition. Cognition affects many areas of daily functioning. The ability to recall and retain information, as well as the capacity to process information, may be compromised temporarily for individuals who sustained a mild TBI. The inability to function well in one’s environment can be a source of frustration that prevents one from obtaining a speedy recovery.

It has been established that the lack of sleep negatively affects cognitive performance, specifically reducing attention and memory capabilities. Attention is built upon several conscious and unconscious actions, such as vigilance, sustained attention, selective attention, and divided attention. It has been observed, in research, that sleep deprivation leads to slowed reaction time and reduces the ability to multi-task or focus. When it comes to memory, two distinct types of memory are mostly affected by the lack of sleep caused by a mild TBI: episodic memory and procedural memory. Episodic memory refers to the capacity to store and retrieve information associated with time and place. Procedural memory enables retention of learned information.

The inability to rest one’s brain due to sleep problems is a significant contributor to memory problems and a huge source of frustration. Sleep is crucial to every individual to ensure effective functioning. How much more essential is sleep for those diagnosed with a mild TBI? Sleep is critical to brain recovery and effective functioning. Individuals who suffer a mild TBI should ensure that their brains are well rested by getting the proper amount of sleep key for recovery.

There is solid research on how the lack of sleep affects one’s functioning and the ability to function effectively in matters of cognition. Lack of sleep impacts cognition which directly impact one’s ability to function independently.

Given the fact that poor sleep habits can be changed and improvised, sleep should be a priority in the treatment and recovery of those suffering from TBI. A nap of about 20 to 30 minutes can reduce fatigue and significantly improve cognitive performance. Early afternoon is found to be the primordial time to nap and recharge one’s batteries. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following healthy sleep tips:

  • Have a sleep schedule: Maintain the same bedtime and wake-up time throughout the week.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Have comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Create a soothing room environment with cool temperatures and a place free from disturbing noises.
  • Wind down: The body needs time to shift to sleep mode. Calming oneself before bedtime by reading and practicing relaxation and meditation techniques.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products before bedtime, as they can disturb sleep,
  • Avoid bright lights in the evening, as well as computers and other electronic devices at bed time.
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