Studies into Sleep Disorders and the Long-Effects of Mild Brain InjuriesTraumatic brain injuries are among the most serious types of injury a person can suffer. Any forceful impact to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Common causes of traumatic brain injuries include car accidents, slips and falls, construction accidents, and oilfield accidents. While many people suffer moderate TBIs, there are many accident victims who suffer severe TBIs that change their entire lives. TBI victims suffer physical harm, suffer emotionally, and often lose some cognitive skills. Many TBI victims need treatment with numerous physicians and healthcare providers.

New studies of the causes, diagnosis, treatments, and consequences of traumatic brain injuries are underway at hospitals, veterans centers, and other institutions throughout the country. A few of these studies are summarized below:

A study of TBIs and sleep disorders in nearly 200,000 US veterans

In March 2021, the National Institutes of Health reported a study published by the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. The objective of the study was to test the theory that veterans who have a TBI also have an increased risk of sleep disorders. The researchers studied approximately 200,000 veterans.

The study examined Veterans Health Administration patients who had been diagnosed with a TBI from 10/1/2001 through 9/30/2015. These patients were compared to veterans of the same age who did not have a TBI or sleep disorder. The development of a sleep disorder, subject to certain conditions, includes an outpatient or inpatient diagnosis of:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hypersomnia
  • Sleep-related movement disorders

The study examined “98,709 veterans with TBI and 98,709 age-matched veterans without TBI (age 49 ± 20 years).” About 20 percent of the veterans in the study did develop sleep disorders. When the results were adjusted for “demographics, education, income, and medical and psychiatric conditions, those who had TBI compared to those without TBI were 41% more likely to develop sleep disorders,” at the following levels:

  • Sleep apnea: 28% more likely
  • Insomnia: 50% more likely
  • Hypersomnia: 50% more likely
  • Sleep-related movement disorders: 33% more likely

Most importantly, the researchers found that the association was stronger for mild TBIs, did not differ appreciably by the presence of a PTSD, and remained after a 14-year time lag. The study also demonstrated that patients with traumatic brain injuries were more likely than those without to have psychiatric conditions including mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse issues.

The researchers further emphasized that long-term management strategies for sleep disorders will be required for veterans with TBI, along with strategies to prevent traumatic brain injuries.

Can exercise improve cognitive decline after a single mild traumatic brain injury?

Another NIH study, published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness on September 2, 2020, was undertaken to look at the long-term impact of mild TBIs (mTBI). Most studies collect and analyze data from patients who have suffered multiple concussions, whereas this NIH study specifically examined:

  • The long-term residuals on patients between 55 and 70 who suffered a single mTBI
  • How well an aerobic exercise program could help these patients

The researchers studied 35 patients (average age about 59 years old) through various neuropsychological tests. Of the 35 patients, 18 had suffered an mTBI in the prior two to seven years. The other 17 patients were control patients. The researchers found “significant differences in information processing speed, executive function and visual memory” between the mTBI patients and the control patients.

Sixteen of the mTBI patients participated in a 12-week physical exercise program. There were two different programs of equivalent size: one for aerobic training and another for stretching. The cardiopulmonary fitness of the patients, along with the neuropsychological tests, were examined prior to and after the programs.

The study found that aerobic exercise helped the fitness of the mild TBI patients much more than the stretching program. The exercise programs, of both types, did not affect the neuropsychological measurements.

What to do if you think you have suffered a brain injury

While there are certain common symptoms of potential brain injuries, ranging from dilated pupils to seizures and unconsciousness, the only real way to know is to seek medical attention. (Unless, of course, you have suffered a penetrating injury to the skull, in which case it is safe to assume your brain has been injured.)

Your doctor will likely ask you a series of questions, and put you through some basic tests for mobility, speech, and cognition. The “score” of those tests – known collectively as the Glasgow Coma Scale – can help ER personnel determine the severity of your injury.

From there, you may be given an MRI or a CT scan, and/or tested for intracranial pressure. If your brain injury is mild, you may be prescribed rest and some OTC medication to relieve any pain. More severe injuries will likely require follow-up medical appointments, and you could be prescribed medication or undergo a surgical procedure.

Larson Law Firm, PC has been fighting for brain injury victims for more than 40 years. We understand how life-altering a traumatic brain injury can be. We work with your doctors, and independent neurologists and other physicians, to fully understand how your TBI is causing your pain and suffering and loss of cognitive function. We demand compensation from all responsible parties for the medical care you’ll need throughout your life, your pain and suffering, and your financial losses. We represent TBI victims in Minot, Bismarck, and throughout North Dakota. Contact us today at 701-484-HURT, or complete the contact form to schedule a consultation.