Major Symptom after Brain Injury: Sleep Disturbances
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Major Symptom after Brain Injury: Sleep Disturbances

Monday, October 02, 2017By Richard Alexander

Certain regions of the brain regulate the body’s sleep/wake cycle. Hence, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), whether it’s a contact injury resulting in localized damage, or an acceleration/deceleration injury leading to generalized damage, can disrupt the brain’s sleep-regulation. In fact, 30-70% of people with TBI experience sleep disturbances.

According to a study, complaints of sleep disturbances often come more from people with mild head injury than those with severe head trauma. It could be that those with mild injuries are more cognizant of sleep problems and may even attribute them to the injury when there is another cause. Conversely, people with more severe injuries may underreport sleep issues because the problem pales in comparison to more serious effects of their injuries.

Regardless of the severity of injury, however, the fact remains that sleep disturbances, such as hypersomnia, insomnia, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders, in a person who has had an accident, could be a serious manifestation of an existing TBI.

The type of sleep problems varies depending on the area of the brain with damage. For example, the brainstem contains arousal centers that are primarily responsible for maintaining a person’s wakefulness. People with an injury affecting this area experience hypersomnia, characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and increased sleep need (pleiosomnia). This affects 50% of those who had TBI history.

On the other hand, the pineal gland located near the base of the skull is involved in sleep initiation. Damage to this area predisposes a person to suffer from insomnia, or difficulty falling and staying asleep. Insomnia is experienced by 30-60% of people who have had a TBI.

Another area of the brain that may be damaged due to a TBI is the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus, which is responsible for the circadian rhythm, or commonly called the “body clock.” Damage to this area will result in circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which includes a delay in sleep phase in relation to light/dark cycles (i.e. early morning bedtimes and late morning/afternoon wake times), or irregular bouts of sleep-wake throughout the day and night.

Additionally, TBI may give rise to other sleep-related problems, such as parasomnias (sleepwalking and nightmares), breathing disorders (obstructive sleep apnea), and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).

The data presented above emphasize that sleep disturbances can be a major symptom of TBI. It is important then that people who report of sleep problems be assessed for any history of TBI. This will allow medical professionals to focus treatment on the underlying TBI, as well as any other contributing factors.

If you or a loved one has suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury caused by the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation. The lawyers at the Alexander Law Group, LLP are experienced at representing those who have suffered harm. Contact us at 888-777-1667 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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