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TBI Keeping You Awake?

Getting a good night's rest can help your brain recover

A Veteran struggling to sleepFor 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:

  • Fatigue

  • Mental confusion

  • Pain

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Mood swings

  • Memory Problems

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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