Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) often interfere with the injured person’s ability to sleep. TBI patients are plagued by insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and mixed up phases of sleep. While many people without a TBI also suffer from sleep issues, a recent study suggests that getting a good night’s sleep may be even more important for patients suffering from a brain injury.
Sleep And Your Memory
Sleep is a process regulated by the body like breathing or digestion. Unlike those two processes, the reasons why we sleep are less thoroughly understood. While there are many theories about why we sleep, including our need to conserve energy and allow our bodies time to repair any damage or fight off diseases, new research has shown that sleep’s role in our memory may be even more important.
According to the most recent research, one of the most important reasons that we sleep is to allow our brains to consolidate and store memories from the day. During sleep, these memories are organized, which allows for the formation of long-term memories.
Most people already know this implicitly—our memory is often impaired after a sleepless night, which makes pulling an all-nighter before a final exam relatively counterproductive. A good night’s rest is often more helpful, as it allows the student to have better recall of the material that was already learned.
A new study indicates that sleep may have an even more important role after a brain injury. When a person suffers a TBI, the parts of the brain which control the formation of memories is impaired. This is why TBI patients often have difficulty with both their short-term and long-term memories, and may suffer from amnesia. However, the study suggests that sleep may still help TBI patients create new long-term memories despite the injury.
TBI Patients Still Benefit From Sleep
In the study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, TBI patients were tested on their ability to recall word pairings. The researchers found that even though TBI patients did not sleep as well as those without brain injuries, when they did sleep they had better recall of the pairs than they did without sleep. TBI patients who were tested in the morning after a full night of sleep scored much better on the word pairs test than those who were asked to recall the pairs late in the afternoon.
The goal of the study was to see if the same memory problems which plague TBI patients would be affected by sleeping. As with the control subjects who were not injured, TBI patients were better able to recall the information after a night of sleep, and the injury did not seem to affect the brain’s ability to consolidate memories during sleep.
This may be why many TBI patients are more alert and better focused in the mornings than in the evenings. Additionally, it makes sleep a priority for TBI patients, as it may be one of the only things that can provide real help with memory formation.
TBI patients should do everything they can to address any issues or problems which may be interfering with their sleep. By letting the brain recover and consolidate memories during a full night of rest, TBI patients may see a dramatic improvement in their ability to recall information.
A traumatic brain injury can be devastating for the affected person, and his or her family and friends. When a TBI is caused by the negligent act of another person, the victim may be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for medical bills, physical therapy, pain and suffering, and any other damages which are appropriate.
At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., we work to help the victims of traumatic brain injuries and fight to get them justice. If you or your loved one was injured as a result of someone else’s carelessness or wrongdoing, we can help you file a lawsuit seeking the damages you need to recover.
For a free consultation with a Los Angeles brain injury lawyer, call (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed today.