After a brain injury there are many aspects of life that can be different from before. One of those things is insomnia and altered sleep patterns. People who have suffered a brain injury often report being unable to sleep at night, which then means they end up falling asleep on the sofa in front of the TV and also not being able to function through the day.
Not sleeping at night can increase feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression, irritability and general wellbeing.
Sleep disorders are three times more common in someone who has had a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) than in the general population, and 60% of those with a brain injury will experience long term problems with their sleep patterns. Women are more likely to be affected than men, and sleep disorders are likely to get worse as the person gets older.
Sleep is a complex process and involves many parts of the brain, so how sleep is affected can vary depending on what part of the brain has been damaged and how sever the damage is.
Common sleep problems and disorders include:
Narcolepsy – falling asleep suddenly and uncontrollably during the day
Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping but not feeling rested
Excessive daytime sleepiness – feeling drowsy
Restless leg syndrome – urge to move the legs especially at night or when lying down, because they feel uncomfortable
Grinding or clenching the teeth
Sleep apnea – where a person stops breathing momentarily resulting in a lack of oxygen flowing to the brain. This can wake someone up or make them snore loudly
Causes of Sleep Problems
Changes to sleep pattern can happen because of physical changes to the structure of the brain, an altered ability to control breathing patterns, medications taken to counter the effects of the brain injury, sleeping through the day prevents sleeping at night, pain, depression, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine can all affect sleep patterns.
How to Develop Good Sleeping Patterns after Brain Injury
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe good practices and routines that you can develop to encourage better sleep patterns.
For example –
- going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning
- do not nap through the day
- avoid stimulants such as alcohol and nicotine before bed
- exercise – as little as 10 minute of aerobic exercise can drastically improve sleep quality. Walking or cycling would be good examples.
- avoid spicy or rich food before bed
- adequate exposure to natural light
- establishing a night time routine such as having a bath before bed or reading
- comfortable environment to sleep in
You can read more about sleep hygiene here.
Do you have problems sleeping? We would love to hear from you if you have any tips that might help others with similar issues. If you’d like some support with your sleep, or other aspect of managing your condition, CONTACT US.