Sleep disorders following mild and moderate traumatic brain injury

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious health concern worldwide. Among other physical, emotional, and neurological symptoms, sleep disturbances affect an estimated 30-70% of individuals who have sustained a TBI. Sleep disorders commonly present as sleeping too much or too little, excessive daytime sleepiness, and changes in sleep latency (the time it takes fall asleep at night). Because adequate sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, these symptoms can inhibit injury rehabilitation and reduce quality of life.

A recent study investigated sleep quality among 62 adults who had experienced a mild to moderate TBI. Using the Pittsburgh sleep quality index, researchers assessed the participants’ average need for sleep per day, their sleep latency, and other sleeping patterns. To establish a baseline for comparison, the researchers also assessed a group of healthy, non-injured control participants. After analyzing the results of the sleep quality index, the researchers found that:

  • Participants with TBI were nearly three times more likely (72.6%) to experience sleep disorders than the healthy controls (24.7%).
  • Sleep disorders became more frequent as TBI severity increases. Only 46.3% of participants with mild TBI experienced sleep disturbances, while nearly all (90%) with moderate TBI experienced sleep disturbances.
  • Although there was no significant difference in sleep latency between the TBI group and the control group, the participants with TBI reported needing more sleep per day.

Sleep disorders are common among people who have sustained TBI, and symptoms tend to increase in frequency or intensity when the injury is more severe. In the months following a TBI, these sleep disturbances can seriously limit an individual’s ability to recover and return to full quality of life. Clinicians are advised to consider sleep disorders when crafting treatment plans for patients with TBI, particularly those whose injuries are severe.

Al-Ameri LT, Mohsin TS, & Wahid ATA. Sleep disorders following mild and moderate traumatic brain injury. Brain Sciences. (January 2019).

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