Good Sleep is Key During Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injuries
Sound sleep plays an important role in human health, since it can help ensure good heart health, help stave off obesity, and reduce our risk of accidents and injuries. However, after a traumatic brain injury, good sleep plays a critical role in healing and should therefore be prioritized - as found in a study by researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). The study, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, relied on magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate the effect that sleep can have on one's brain health post-concussion.
The Effect of Poor Sleep on the Brain
The OHSU study, carried out on veterans who had sustained brain injuries, found that those who had poor quality sleep had an enlargement of the fluid-filled spaces that surround blood vessels in the brain. This enlargement is linked to aging and is linked to the development of dementia. The researchers stated that their study had major implications for veterans and civilians with TBIs, since it revealed that good sleep plays an important role in "clearing waste from the brain after traumatic brain injury - if you don't sleep well, you might not clean your brain as efficiently."
Concussion and Brain Waste
A traumatic brain injury or concussion disrupts or permanently alters the way one's brain functions. It can result in permanent pain, disabilities, impairments, and other problems and some of their most common symptoms include altered sleep patterns, anxiety and/or depression, dizziness, memory loss, mood swings, numbness of extremities, headaches, sensitivity to light or sound, and slurred speech. When one experiences a blow to the head that results in concussion, good sleep is vital because, as the OHSU researchers stated, it is as though the brain has generated more waste than usual, but the system becomes 'clogged'. Because improving sleep can help rid the brain of this waste, it is vital to adopt specific habits that can improve sleep quantity and quality.
Habits to Adopt
Good sleep is a matter of both quantity and quality. It is recommended that adults sleep for between seven and nine hours a night. Good sleep quality, meanwhile, involves falling asleep within half an hour of getting into bed, waking up no more than once at night, and having 20 minutes or less of night wakefulness. People with brain injuries should aim to improve their sleep hygiene by sleeping at the same time every night, reducing screen time in the late afternoon and evening, and avoiding caffeine at these times as well. They should also invest in bedroom design, via curtains that fully block out the light and soundproofing methods if required. Finally, their bedroom should be kept silent and cool, with the thermostat set at between 60º to 67ºF. As stated by the Sleep Foundation, "Our bodies are programmed to experience a slight dip in core temperature in the evening. Turning the thermostat down at night may help with temperature regulation and signal your body that it's time for bed."
Recent research indicates that good sleep is vital during recovering from a TBI. It can help the brain clear out waste, which is particularly important during this time. Those who have experienced a TBI should take steps to improve their sleep hygiene and make required changes to their sleeping environment.