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Link between brain injury and sleep problems

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Research at the University Hospital Zurich has been looking at the link between brain injury and sleep disturbance. Many people who have sustained a brain injury complain of feelings of fatigue, however many do not report disturbed sleep.

The research carried out on 31 people who had experienced a traumatic brain injury in the last 18 months found the majority of them had sleep disturbances, despite being unaware of it. When compared to a control group of 42 healthy adults who had not sustained any injury, those with a brain injury showed more episodes of sleep disturbance which had an effect on performance and alertness in the day.

All participants were required to wear a device for two weeks to monitor their body movements, as well as to self-report on their sleep and levels of tiredness in the daytime. They were also required to spend one night in a sleep lab and undertook tasks to measure daytime sleepiness.

67% of people who had sustained a traumatic brain injury suffered from daytime tiredness and would quickly fall asleep in a quiet environment during the day. This was compared to only 19% in the control group. This was despite the fact that those with a brain injury not reporting any more feelings of tiredness.

Lukas Imback, study author commented, “Excessive daytime sleepiness is associated with public safety hazards such as car accidents, so people with TBI and their doctors should be monitoring for this problem. The study also shows us that people with TBI may not be able to accurately assess their own sleep problems. Since this is how the sleep quality of many people with TBI is assessed, this may be a concern.”

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