While short and long term complications of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are numerous, insomnia is believed to occur in 30 to 70 percent of TBI victims. Just as a TBI can vary in its intensity, so can insomnia. Some patients report general restlessness, while other patients barely get enough rest for their bodies to function.
Good Sleep is Vital
Patients suffering with insomnia may either have difficulty falling asleep or, once asleep, not be able to stay sleeping. This can have profound neurological and psychological effects on a victim of TBI, above and beyond the initial trauma causing the insomnia. Insomnia, even without TBI, can cause:
- Decreased memory capacity
- Increased stress
- Greater risk of depression
- Cardiovascular disease due to increased cortisol levels
- Decreased concentration
- Weakened immune system
- Blurred vision
- Traffic or workplace accidents
Brain Changes Cause Insomnia
While 7 to 10 percent of the general population may suffer from insomnia due to anxiety or the stresses of life, insomnia in victims of TBI is of a different variety. Damage to the pineal gland of the brain could disrupt the production of melatonin, for example. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep cycles.
In addition, a University of Wisconsin – Madison study published in 2010 discovered a link between insomnia and damage to the left dorsal and medial frontal cortex. Their study examined Vietnam veterans who had sustained a TBI specific to that area of the brain. The study was conducted from April 2003 to November 2006, showing how a brain injury sustained decades earlier during the Vietnam War can continue to have serious effects.
TBI patients suffering from insomnia may understandably turn to medication in an attempt to find a good night’s sleep. This, too, can lead to complications because of the dubious nature of some sleep medications or the potential for addiction and abuse. Death may result from overuse of sleeping pills, and seemingly harmless herbal sleep supplements can negatively interact with doctor prescribed medications. As a result, it is vitally important to tell your doctor if you are taking melatonin supplements, valerian root or other over-the-counter sleeping aids. As is the case with non-TBI related insomnia, treating the cause – your head injury – rather than the symptoms, will be the best cure.
Insomnia can be far more devastating than a few restless nights. Contact us today if you have suffered a TBI and are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above. You may be entitled to compensation. The attorneys at the Brain Injury Law Center specialize in brain related cases and offer a free consultation to help you determine your next steps.