Recovering from a concussion, which in a small percentage of injuries results in traumatic brain damage, is a daunting process. There is no medical treatment other than quiet rest during the first 90 days and overwhelmingly most people fully recover. In a small percentage of situation, there is brain damage that will take years to resolve.
In recent years, scientists have learned that sleep is one of the keys to a successful physical and mental recovery. While sleep helps with all injuries, it is especially important for brain injury recovery. Research has found a close link between improved sleep quality and cognitive function.
Study: Sleep Quality and Brain Injuries Improved in Tandem
A study published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Neurology found an extremely strong association between sleep quality and brain health. The research project centered on nearly three dozen patients who had recently been diagnosed with a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury. In assessing the patients, medical researchers immediately noted that most of them struggled with their sleep. Across the board, sixty percent of survivors of traumatic brain injury report insomnia and extremely sleepiness during the day. In this cohort, researchers learned the patients were not getting restorative sleep, waking up every few minutes and then struggling to fall back asleep.
But as the brain function recovered, the patient’s sleep cycle improved in tandem. The researchers observed that brain recovery and sleep quality improvement occurred nearly in lockstep. The study raised the possibility that doctors could help to speed up the brain injury recovery process by focusing on promoting sleep quality as part of their initial medical interventions. Sleep-focused prescription drugs and behavioral therapies were proposed as a possible treatment option. As one of the authors of the paper noted, “sleep is essential to restore body and brain functions.” As a patient is in a vulnerable state after suffering a severe brain injury, proper sleep is crucial. It is a difficult situation: Brain injuries cause poor sleep, and poor sleep impairs recovery. Interventions focused on improving sleep quality offer some promise.
Many People Suffer Sleep Problems After Suffering a TBI
Treating a concussion is challenging because brain injuries can manifest themselves in a wide variety of ways. Symptoms will depend, in large part, on the length of loss consciousness as well as the portion of the brain suffering the aftereffects of severe deceleration.
Overwhelmingly survivors of closed head injuries and severe concussions experience a range or constellation of symptoms with dysfunctional sleep as one of the primary problems after an accident:
- Falling asleep;
- Staying asleep;
- Falling back asleep after disruption;
- Reduced oxygen levels while asleep (sleep apnea); and
- Feeling rested after a full night in bed, not necessarily in sleep.
By itself, disrupted sleep is bad enough. After a serious injury, it is an even bigger issue. The adverse effects of not getting enough sleep are well-established and for the survivor of a head injury compound fatigue, depression, anxiety, physical pain, memory problems, and reduced cognitive functioning. Our brain’s core repair mechanisms work while we are asleep. For someone who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, poor sleep denies necessary restoration and exacerbates many other problems.
General practitioners and family physicians know that only rest aids the recovery of a closed head injury and there is little that can be done except to reassure their patient. Documentation of the patients complaints is often scant with no chart entries until many months after the date of injury. Defense lawyers and the pro-defense experts they routinely hire to defend TBI lawsuits do their best to exploit this common situation.
There are several ways to protect yourself.
We strongly recommend taking a list of the ways you have noticed that your thinking and memory have been disrupted when you see your doctor. The goal is that when you are asked “how are you?” you will provide specific information. Understand that the first things you say will be entered by your doctor in your chart.
Medical school teaches doctors to diagnose by eliciting symptoms from the patient. All too often patients treat “how are you” as a social greeting. It is not. It is the cornerstone of diagnosis that requires your input.
Taking a list to your appointment of all of your symptoms will make sure your doctor understands all of your symptoms to better diagnose and treat you. Take a person who lives with you accompany you to your medical appointment. Husbands, wives and housemates all have seen how you have been impacted and in general they know better than you the impact of a head injury on your day-to-day functioning.
If you have suffered a long-term disability from a closed head injury, a well-documented medical history will provide the foundation and necessary support for your doctor to refer you to speech-therapists, occupational therapists and neuropsychologists to aid in your recovery.
Contact Our San Jose, CA Brain Injury Lawyers for Immediate Help
Alexander Law Group, LLP attorneys are available to answer questions and share our knowledge of the law and the results of our research and experience. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to make a difference for our clients. Every day we deal with a range of health and safety issues that most people do not encounter until after an injury occurs. As safety lawyers we are committed to providing our clients and the public with information for safer and healthier living. Call 888-777-1776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you.