Posted on May 25, 2010 · Posted in Brain Injury

Adding insomnia to injury, those who suffer from traumatic brain damage may have issues sleeping because they are producing less melatonin, according to a new study.

Australian reseachers conducted a sleep experiment where they compared patients who had suffered traumatic brain injury on average 14 months prior to the test with 23 healthy people. 

The research found that the healthy test participants produced more melatonin at night than those with brain injuries. 

Melatonin is a hormone that affects the body’s circadian rhythm. Normally, melatonin levels spike right before bedtime, to help bring on sleep. 

The study also found that brain injury patients: spent less time in bed actually sleeping; spent more time awake after first falling asleep; spent more time in non-REM sleep; and had more anxiety and depression.

 For example, brain injury patients spent an average of 62 minutes a night awake, after initially falling asleep, versus 27 minutes for the healthy group.

One explanation for the sleeping problems is that cerebral damage may interfere with the brain structures that regulate sleep, including the synthesis of melatonin by the pineal gland.

Insomnia is a common problem of those with TBI, the study said. 

And the research’s authors suggested that perhaps sleep problems lead to depression, instead of depression leading to sleep problems.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447