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Sleep and brain injury

‘Sleep is as necessary as the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat’

A healthy adult sleeps for an average of 7 to 9 hours – although there are some who can manage on less than 6 hours, and some of us who function best with more than 10 hours sleep.

Many people have trouble sleeping at some point in their life, for some this can be a short term issue, for others a much longer problem.

Why is sleep important?

When we are asleep, our brain and body recharges. It’s often said that ‘everything will seem better after a good nights’ sleep’ and indeed having a good nights’ sleep helps us think more clearly, be more alert and function more effectively mentally, physically and emotionally.

What is a sleep problem?

The most commonly seen sleep disorders among medical professionals are:

  • Insomnia – difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep or an unrefreshing sleep (that feeing of waking up tired no matter how long you have been asleep). Insomnia is estimated to affect 30% of the population at some stage within any one year.
  • Hypersomnia – excessive sleepiness which is estimated to affect 5-10% of the population.
  • Parasomnias – unwanted behaviour during sleep, such as sleepwalking or sleeptalking. Its unknown how many people are affected by this condition, but estimates indicate 15% of children and 1-2% of adults.

Brain injury and sleep problems

It’s very common following a brain injury for the injured person to suffer with sleep problems. A report by the Sleep Research Society in America estimates between 30-70% of individuals with mild, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury suffer sleep problems for up to 3 years post injury. The report goes on to state that sleep related breathing disorders (obstructive sleep apnoea and central sleep apnoea) are reported more frequently in individuals after a TBI than in the general population.

Extra sleep may be needed while you brain is trying to heal from injury and may not be making or using the natural chemicals that help us fall to sleep and stay asleep. Its also possible that the brain’s electrical rhythms may have been disrupted.

If physical injury occurred alongside the brain injury and are causing pain, this can also affect your sleep. As your body heals, normal sleep patterns may return, or you may need to seek medical help to assist with sleeping – certain medications can cause sleep problems so its always worth asking.

Sleep apnoea is a condition when breathing stops and starts during sleep. Symptoms can include making gasping, snorting or choking noises, waking up a lot and loud snoring. It can also cause excessive daytime tiredness, poor concentration, mood swings and waking with a headache. If you suspect sleep apnoea, you should always seek medical advice as its can be extremely serious if not diagnosed and treated.

So what can be done, naturally, to alleviate sleep problems?

Everyone is different and what helps one person, may not help another, but suggestions include:

  • A regular bedtime routine
  • Comfortable bed and a quiet room
  • No working or watching TV in bed immediately before you wish to fall asleep
  • A warm bath before bed, but keep your the bedroom cool
  • No smoking or drinking caffeine last thing at night before bedtime
  • No alcohol just before bed
  • No eating late at night
  • Exercise in the morning or evening but not too late
  • Having a short daytime nap if needed

If you have concerns about sleep problems following a brain injury, its always best to seek the advice from a medical professional.

LAWS – providing initial free legal advice

Legal & Welfare Service (LAWS) online for brain injury help, advice and support

What is the Brain Injury Group?

Brain Injury Group is a free service designed to connect those affected by a brain injury (whether there is a claim or not) to a range of experts who may be able to offer advice and assistance.

If you’d like to find out more about the work of Brain Injury Group, you are at the right place! You can follow the links below to:

The Brain Injury Group exists to support individuals and families affected by brain injury and the health and social care professionals working in this specialist field. Our mission is to provide anyone affected by brain injury with access to advice on legal, financial and welfare benefit issues delivered by proven experts in the field who have been chosen not only for their skills and knowledge, but also for their passion and dedication to helping people.

As well as providing legal and welfare advice, Brain Injury Group provide training for legal, health and social care professionals. View our award winning Brain Injury Group brain injury training events.

The Brain Injury Group brain injury directory

The BIG Brain Injury Services Directory

How can Brain Injury Group help you?

If you would like advice about bringing a brain injury claim, capacity, deputyships, managing the award of compensation or any other aspect of brain injury welfare, legal or financial advice, we have specialist brain injury solicitors and Court of Protection solicitors who can assist.

You can find full details of Brain Injury Group members on our website or there are several ways to get in touch:

  1. Call us on 0800 612 9660 or 01737 852203
  2. Email us at enquiries@braininjurygroup.co.uk
  3. Complete this short enquiry form and we’ll get back to you
  4. Find a specialist brain injury solicitor near to you