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The Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries on Sleep

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When a person suffers from a traumatic brain injury, the trauma can affect regular brain functions. The amount of problems that can arise from a brain injury depends on the severity of the damage. For example, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) explained that patients with a mild traumatic brain injury can have a brief loss of consciousness, confusion and problems with cognitive functions, such as thinking, memory and attention. Patients can also have headaches, dizziness, mood changes, lightheadedness and fatigue. Other symptoms include ringing in the ears, blurred vision and a bad taste in the mouth.

With moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, patients have the same symptoms as with a mild traumatic brain injury, though the severity and duration of the symptoms can increase. For example, patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can have a worsening headache. The cognition problems can become more debilitating, requiring patients to undergo neuropsychological rehabilitation. Patients can also have agitation, repeated vomiting, seizures and pupil dilation. When moderate to severe traumatic brain injury patients fall asleep, they can have problems waking up. Other symptoms include slurred speech, weakness and a loss of coordination.

But a traumatic brain injury can also lead to sleeping problems in patients. In a new study published in Neurology, researchers found that traumatic brain injuries can disrupt melatonin production, a hormone linked to sleep. The study included 23 people with severe traumatic brain injuries and 23 healthy people. All the participants were the same age, and the researchers observed them for two nights in a sleep laboratory. The researchers discovered that the levels of melatonin went up in healthy patients in the evening.

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I had a brain trauma in a vehicle accident, followed by brain surgery due to an aneurysm. I have since been diagnosed with RLS, and am this week going through another sleep study due to the doctor informing in the last visit that I quit breathing several times (I think it was 11) per hour! This shocked me as I thought I sleep fine. Also since this vehicle accident I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. The brain has an effect on every part of the body functions-with this in mind I hope they up the research in this area.

September 19, 2011 - 7:16pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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