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Study: Improved Sleep Linked with Recovery from Brain Injury

Friday, March 10, 2017By Richard Alexander

The human brain is an amazing organ. It seems that every day we learn more about the brain’s capabilities and the role it plays in our daily lives. When the brain is compromised, such as after a traumatic brain injury, sleep patterns often suffer. And recent research is starting to show a link between sleeping normally and recovering from brain injuries.

The study was published in the journal Neurology in December by a neuropsychologist from the University of Montreal. The subjects of the study were 30 patients who had suffered from moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries in car crashes or falls or by blows to their heads. The researchers hoped to find whether sleep schedule improvements led to or preceded brain recovery.

A few weeks after each victim’s injury, the researchers tested his or her “level of consciousness and cognitive function.” They also fitted each patient with a device to capture their sleeping patterns.

Patients who were not doing well had extremely irregular sleeping patterns. They tended to be awake for a few minutes, then asleep for a few minutes regardless of the time of day.

Patients whose brains had recovered substantially had regular sleeping patterns, generally sleeping at night and being awake during the day.

The link was clear enough that the researchers concluded that sleep-schedule improvements and brain recovery improved at the same time, “apparently in lock step.”

This research will likely spawn additional research about whether medical teams can speed brain recovery by inducing normal sleep schedules. Options to do so might include drugs and also improving patient environment at nighttime, making it quieter or darker.

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