Sleeping Problems Caused by Brain Injuries

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
November 26, 2019

Sleeping problems caused by brain injuries are common after car accidents, slip and falls or concussions on the sports field. However, many people are not aware of the link between head trauma and insomnia.

People diagnosed with brain injuries suffer often from sleep disturbances. This can be a vicious circle. If you are not sleeping soundly, you can suffer increased anxiety, depression, irritability, and tiredness.

Sleep deprivation impacts work performance and may cause car accidents. Sleep disorder studies suggest insomnia and interrupted sleep is three times more common in people with traumatic brain injuries than in the general population. Almost 60 percent of people with TBI suffer long-term difficulties with sleep. Some studies suggest women are more likely to suffer sleep disorders post TBI than men, and older people suffer from more sleep problems.

Traumatic brain injuries are often a result of an auto accident, mistakes at hospitals or slip and fall accidents. If another individual caused your injury, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. Please contact our Virginia traumatic brain injury lawyers for help.

There are many types of sleep disorder. People with traumatic brain injuries may not always realize their conditions are caused by a TBI.

Common Sleeping Problems Caused by Brain Injuries

Some of the most common sleeping issues linked to brain injuries include:

  • Insomnia: An inability to fall asleep or remain asleep may be caused or exacerbated by a brain injury. Not feeling rested after sleep is often a sign of insomnia. The condition can exacerbate the behavioral and cognitive or comprehension problems associated with brain injuries.  It may be difficult to learn new skills when suffering from insomnia which is most acute in the weeks after sustaining a TBI.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness: Drowsiness during the daylight hours can be associated with a TBI.
  • Narcolepsy: People who suffer narcolepsy will often fall asleep unexpectedly during the day. They often cannot control the condition.

Why Does Insomnia Occur After a Brain Injury?

Researchers found certain processes lead to sleeping problems after a brain injury.

A blow to the head may injure parts of the brain that control sleep-wake cycles. The brain sends circadian rhythms to the body telling you when it is time to wake up, and when it is time to fall asleep. A brain injury can disrupt these rhythms.

A brain injury can also affect neurotransmitters that control wakefulness and sleepiness. They include gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), histamine, and orexin.

The brain produces a certain level of neurotransmitters at the optimum time for sleep. A brain injury may disrupt this, according to one theory. A TBI may cause communication problems when nerve cells are injured. They are not able to correctly respond to sleep and wakefulness neurotransmitters. Sleep cycles can be affected along and patterns of rapid eye movement can be impacted.

The Link Between Depression and Insomnia

Head injuries often cause depression. In turn, depression pushes insomnia rates up. Depression is often associated with concussions.

Medications are often used to treat head trauma symptoms. However, these medications can impact normal sleep patterns. Head pain also causes sleeplessness.

People who suffer insomnia after a brain injury should seek medical help.  Aim to see a specialist as soon as possible. Sleeping problems caused by brain injuries can be tricky to diagnose.

What to Do If You Suffer Sleeplessness from a Head Injury

If you suffer from insomnia after a head injury, you should contact your primary health provider. Your doctor can review your medications and formulate an action plan. Refrain from activities like watching an exciting movie before bed that will make your brain active.

You should avoid food and drinks that exacerbate sleeplessness such as caffeine from all sources including coffee, chocolate and energy drinks, especially later in the day. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) may be recommended to treat sleeplessness. CBTI is described as a scientifically proven, effective way to treat insomnia without relying on sleeping pills.

Talk to a Virginia Brain Injury Lawyer about Sleeping Problems Caused by Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are complex. They impact the lives of the sufferers in many ways. Symptoms like fatigue and lack of sleep caused by a traumatic brain injury can be debilitating. Sleeplessness makes people irritable and can cause other health problems. You can lose your job or fall asleep at the wheel, leading to further injuries. If you or a family member suffered sleeplessness after a brain injury, please contact our Virginia brain injury lawyers at (757) 244-7000.

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