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How a Traumatic Brain Injury or Concussion Can Affect Sleep

| Oct 9, 2015 | Brain Injuries

A concussion can affect an individual’s ability to sleep in a number of ways.

The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, which protects and promotes health and safety in the United States, directly links sleep and concussions. The CDC categorizes concussion symptoms in the following four categories:

  • Thinking/Remembering: feeling mentally “foggy”, difficulty remembering, etc.
  • Physical Symptoms: Headaches, neck aches, etc.
  • Emotional/Mood Symptoms: irritability, sadness, nervousness, etc.
  • Sleep Disturbance: Impacts on sleep patterns

Researchers have found that 30-70% of individuals who suffered a traumatic brain injury,  which includes concussions, experienced sleeping problems after the injury. The overall impact is heavily dependent upon the severity of the head injury.

Additionally, researchers have also found that individuals who have experienced a traumatic brain injury produce less melatonin than healthy people. Melatonin is especially important in the evening hours when the natural chemical plays a crucial role in helping the body prepare to sleep.

According to the CDC, these disturbances resulting from concussions impact sleep in three major ways:

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

These categories are not mutually exclusive, meaning an individual can suffer from two or more at any given time. That’s due to the fact that any impact or disruption on the biological rhythm of sleep, will likely lead to overall sleep disturbances. For example, if you experience a concussion playing in your weekend softball league, then you may first experience difficulty falling asleep due to pain, stress from the injury, anxiety, lack of melatonin production or any number of reasons. Once an individual experiences trouble falling asleep, then their ability to achieve the necessary amount of sleep could be impacted – which would lead to that individual sleeping less than is necessary. This creates a vicious cycle which impacts all aspects of the person’s life, including recovery from the actual concussion.

One recent study, published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, found that mild TBIs, which again includes concussions, may be more impactful on sleep disturbance than severe TBIs. One primary reason was the individuals coping with a mild traumatic brain injury, were found to experience a lower percentage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep than those individuals who had not experienced a traumatic brain injury. This type of sleep is crucial in order to have effective sleep.

So how does a concussion impact sleep? In a variety of ways. It can result in less melatonin produced by an individual and can make it difficult for an individual to fall asleep in a variety of ways. It can also, impact the quality of the person’s sleep, which in turn can lead to dramatic disturbances in the sleep cycle, the mood and fatigue of the person, and the overall recovery from the concussion.

Please consult a doctor if you have experienced a concussion.

If you or your loved one has suffered a concussion or believes that they have suffered a traumatic brain injury, then please contact the San Diego brain injury lawyers at Martinez & Schill LLP for a free consultation. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Martinez & Schill offer free consultations and are not paid unless you recover. Contact our San Diego office: 619-512-5995 or Riverside office: 951-200-4630.