If you have been involved in a car accident or a slip-and-fall accident, you may be suffering from a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). The party that is responsible for your injuries should be held liable and you may be awarded damages for out of pocket expenses, lost wages, future loss of income, future care costs and compensatory damages in an attempt to restore you to the position that you would have been in had the injury not taken place.
One of the symptoms associated with a TBI includes sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. TBIs cause the biological and electrical rhythm of sleep to be interrupted. Sleep disorders affect an individual’s cognition and functional capacity. This type of symptom can significantly reduce an individual’s quality of life, affect their relationships and impact the individual financially by disrupting his/her ability to work.
CAUSES OF SLEEP PROBLEMS FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM TBIs
It is often said that a good night’s sleep will help the brain’s health process. However, an injury to the brain can lead to changes in sleep. If the brain is injured, it may not be able to tell the body when to fall asleep or when to wake up. Furthermore, an injury to the brain can change the way the chemicals in our body that help us to sleep affect the body.
A TBI can also alter the brain’s ability to control breathing. This can result in periods of apnea, which can occur when breathing stops for long enough for blood oxygen levels to drop.
Individuals suffering from TBIs may also be taking medication, which may affect their ability to go to sleep or stay asleep or make them sleepy during the day and unable to participate in their everyday activities. Daytime sleeping and inactivity is also likely to disturb the ability to sleep at night.
Typically those who are suffering from a brain injury are also experiencing pain in other parts of the body. This discomfort may also disturb sleep. In addition, depression is fairly common for those suffering from a TBI, which can also lead to sleep problems.
RECENT RESEARCH REVEALS THOSE WITH TBI HAD AN INCREASED RISK OF SLEEP DISORDERS
A study by neurologists at the University of California in San Francisco studied veterans and service members and concluded that even a mild TBI (a concussion) can significantly increase an individual’s risk of sleep apnea.
The study investigated 200,000 service members who served the US in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 to 2015. Those who suffered from a TBI and were also diagnosed with sleep apnea were found to perform significantly worse on measures of processing speed, memory and other cognitive processes. Furthermore, it was found that the cognitive outcomes worsened as the severity of sleep apnea increased. This indicates that even a mild TBI, such as a concussion, can cause sleep disturbances that will limit an individual’s overall functioning and quality of life.
THE EFFECTS OF SLEEP DISORDERS
If an individual does not receive the proper amount of sleep to allow for his/her body to recharge, cognitive abilities and function are decreased. This also causes an increase in irritability.
When an individual is involved in a fall or collision and has suffered serious injuries, including a TBI, the body requires sleep to allow it to rest and rebuild itself and repair injured muscles. Unfortunately, a sleep disorder will not allow this process to occur.
Increased fatigue can also lead to memory loss or impairment from the lack of sleep.
Healthcare professionals can provide safe and effective treatments for sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. One of the most common treatments is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This is a mask device that supplies a constant stream of air pressure causing the airway to open and prevent the sporadic muscle collapse caused by sleep apnea. It is recommended that the CPAP be used at least four hours per night on at least 70% of nights in order to be effective. Unfortunately, less than half of those who use a CPAP for sleep apnea tend to follow this advice, and those that use CPAP to treat sleep apnea after a TBI are even less likely than the general population to adhere to the prescribed treatment regimen.
Another treatment option is the mandibular advancement device (MAD). This device repositions the lower jaw during sleep to reduce airway obstructions.
Lifestyle changes are often recommended to improve sleep, including weight loss and side sleeping positions. If anxiety or depression are causing sleep difficulties, psychotherapy may be an appropriate treatment.
HOW TO IMPROVE SLEEP POST TBI
Healthcare providers advise that proper sleep hygiene is important for everyone, especially those with a history of TBI. Rest is especially important for the healing process of TBI sufferers.
In order to improve sleep hygiene, experts recommend the following:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day;
- Do not nap more than 20 minutes during the day;
- Try to get outdoors for sunlight during the daytime;
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet and at a comfortable temperature to allow you to sleep;
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom;
- Do not drink coffee in the late afternoon or early evening;
- Do not eat large meals or drink alcohol before bedtime; and
- Exercise regularly.
If you or a loved one have suffered a TBI or would like more information regarding sleep disorders due to TBIs, contact the law firm of Cuming & Gillespie LLP. We have experienced and supportive lawyers who will work with you and can help evaluate the injury’s impact on your life and whether you are entitled to make a claim for damages.
At Cuming & Gillespie LLP, we will review your accident from all perspectives to provide you with advice as to whether to pursue a claim for damages. It is important that you call us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. Contact our office at 403-571-0555 or online today to book an appointment for a free consultation.