Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mild Brain Injury May Cause Chronic Sleep Trouble

(HealthDay News) -- People who suffer mild brain injuries may be at increased risk for sleep disorders, researchers say.

Reporting in the April 3 issue of Neurology, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, assessed 42 people who complained of insomnia after they'd had a mild traumatic brain injury. Of those 42 patients, 15 (36 percent) had a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (CRSD) -- a problem with the timing of sleep.

Of the 15 patients with CRSD, eight had a "delayed sleep phase syndrome," including problems falling asleep and waking up; and seven had irregular sleep patterns.

"The frequency of sleep disorders in this study is considerably higher than the rate of these disorders among people attending sleep clinics for insomnia, which is seven to 10 percent," study author Liat Ayalon said in a prepared statement.

The findings highlight the need for improved diagnosis and treatment of circadian rhythm sleep disorders in patients who've had a mild brain injury and complain of insomnia.

"Misdiagnosis of these patients as insomniac may lead to prescription of medications, which help people fall asleep but don't help normalize the sleep-wake cycle," Ayalon said.

Since circadian rhythm sleep disorders are often associated with cognitive and psychological problems, proper treatment of these disorders may lead to improvements in other brain injury-related symptoms in these patients, the experts said.

"As many as 40 to 65 percent of people with mild traumatic brain injury complain of insomnia. This is concerning, since sleeping problems may exacerbate other brain injury symptoms such as headache, emotional distress, and cognitive impairment, making the rehabilitation process much harder," Ayalon said.

More information
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about sleep.

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