TBI Keeping You Awake?
Getting a good night's rest can help your brain recover
For people on the road to recovery from a traumatic brain injury or TBI, sleep is important. Veterans who've experienced a brain injury may have trouble getting the quantity and quality of sleep they need.
Types of sleep problems
For people recovering from TBIs, about 30-70 percent of them report having sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbance is one of the most common symptoms following a brain injury. Not getting good, regular sleep can impact your whole world. If you're recovering from TBI, you may:
Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Wake up often and easily (you're a "light sleeper")
Can't fall back asleep
Feel excessively sleepy all the time, despite getting at least 8 hours of sleep
Have trouble with snoring, stopping breathing, or gasping yourself awake (sleep apnea)
Develop narcolepsy, which is falling asleep suddenly and uncontrollably
Develop sleepwalking, which is walking or moving while sleeping with no awareness of the action
My HealtheVet's Insomnia Severity Index is a great way for Veterans to gauge their sleep problems. It's only seven questions. The score is based on your answers. Once you complete it, share your results with your health care team to figure out treatment.
Tips to sleep better
Developing better sleep habits won't happen overnight. The best way to treat TBI-related sleep problems is with good sleep hygiene. That means:
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends
Avoiding caffeine after lunch
Avoiding alcohol and nicotine within 4 hours of bedtime
Getting sunshine first thing every morning to help enforce your internal clock's sleep schedule
Getting exercise every day to promote readiness to sleep
Resting during the day, but not napping for more than 20 minutes
Avoiding heavy exercise and heavy meals for several hours before bedtime
Keeping your bedroom quiet, dark, and at a cool, comfortable temperature
Keeping stress and work out of the bedroom
Not watching TV or working on your computer while in bed
Not lying awake in bed; get up and do a relaxing activity for a short while
Before trying medications, practice good sleep hygiene, and use the CBT-i Coach app to help you get your beauty rest.
Sleep is needed for recovery
During sleep, your body has time to heal correctly. Getting a good night's sleep can help you feel refreshed, less stressed, and improve your health. Just like other parts of the body, the brain needs rest to recover. It's important to get enough sleep because, without it, your TBI symptoms can worsen.
Symptoms of TBI related sleep problems include:
Follow up with your health care team
Insomnia can continue after a TBI. It may go together with depression and trouble functioning during the day. If good sleep hygiene is not solving your sleep problems, talk with your health care provider. You may need to learn relaxation techniques or try talk therapy to help you.
If you notice a change in sleep patterns or symptoms worsening, use Secure Messaging (sign in required) to contact your health care team and get the help you need.
Remember: Every small change you make toward getting regular, quality sleep will be a step toward feeling more rested and energetic during the day.
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