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Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injury And Related Sleep Problems Occur Hand In Hand: Study

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A recent study conducted by Canadian scientists shows that patients with traumatic brain injuries seem to also be able to sleep better as they recover. This discovery will provide researchers with new ways to assess one's recovery and improve treatment conditions as well.

Sleep And Recovery Go Hand In Hand

In order to see if there was any connection between the recovery process of patients diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and their sleeping patterns, a team of researchers in Montréal, Canada, studied 30 patients who were diagnosed with such an injury.

Their ages ranged between 17 and 58 and the causes of their injuries were quite diverse: car accidents, sports injuries, blows to the head or falls. Some of them had been comatose at the time of their arrival to the hospital; all the patients spent some time in the ICU.

For the purpose of the study, both the sleep cycles and rate of recovery of these patients were carefully monitored.

What happens in the case of TBIs is that the patients find themselves for a period of time in a state of partial consciousness.

During the same period, they also experience sleep problems, as their sleep-wake cycle is affected. In order for this cycle to be considered normal, the patients would have to be active during the day and sleep during the night without interruptions.

The recovery of the mental abilities of the patients was evaluated by using the Rancho Los Amigos scale, which ranges from 1 to 8. The subjects received several tasks and their ability to perform and remember them was scored.

If the score is 5 or below, the subjects tend to be confused and don't respond correctly to stimuli. At this stage, the sleep patterns are also abnormal, as revealed by the bracelets that monitored activity during sleep. Once the patients rank 6 or more, their sleep-wake cycle is closer to normal and so are their reactions to stimuli.

Implications For Patients And Doctors

The results of the study show that evaluating sleep patterns in TBI patients may be as important as evaluating their reactions to stimuli. Also, it can provide valuable information about how to personalize care for these people, as also stated by the author of the study, Nadia Gosselin, Ph.D.

"It's possible that there are common underlying brain mechanisms involved in both recovery from TBI and improvement in sleep. Still, more study needs to be done and future research may want to examine how hospital lighting and noise also affect quality of sleep for those with TBI," noted Gosselin.

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