Monday, June 13, 2011

Sleep Problems After a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Yesterday a friend contacted me and mentioned that he couldn't sleep
well after his head injury, which is the reason why I am writing this
today.  The things I am about to mention are based on my personal
experience.  I am not a medical professional but I can tell you that I
know first hand what a brain injury is.
Immediately after I sustained a brain injury I had sleep issues.  The
issue that stood out the most was that I could not sleep enough.  I
went from being a person that could sleep a few hours, waking up full
of energy to a person that could not get enough sleep.  That was one
of the first signs that those around me noticed.  When it was time to
wake up, the alarm would be going off for hours and I could not hear
it.  I would sleep twelve plus hours.  This is an issue is an ongoing
today but I have disciplined myself to avoid any oversleeping.
I have heard from other TBI survivors that their problem is the
opposite.  They cannot sleep.  This has happened to me but the most
common for me is not being able to wake up in the morning.
Sleep is something that more than a need it is a process.  For this
process to happen optimally we have to understand that we have to
control and adjust our environment.  I know that many have TV sets in
the bedroom.  This is not recommended but at the same time it is
something that many of us are extremely used to.  The question now is:
what are you watching prior to sleeping? Are you watching Law and
Order? Are you watching a news channels? Watching programs as such
affect the amount of time I need to fall asleep. Many of us are
dependent of the TV, one thing that has worked for me is to watch
documentaries.  Not the type that show the gangs or people fighting in
prison.  I watch the type of documentaries that involve nature,
especially those that involve the ocean. This type of programs make me
feel some kind of relaxation. Last week I watched Oceans, a
documentary produced by Disney. I found this one very soothing.  It
got me so relaxed that I even fell asleep watching it.
Other things Roxana and I do is that we keep our bedroom very clean
and organized.  In order for me to have a pleasant sleep, I need the
environment to be peaceful.  I honestly don't believe that having a
mess can contribute or help for a good night sleep.
Once we are ready to go to sleep, we turn on a water fountain and the
recording of a thunderstorm.  I grew up in a place that thunderstorm
were almost a daily event. The recording I have sounds exactly like
the TStorms back at home.  We leave the fountain and the TStorm
recording run all night long.  With that I rarely wake up in the
middle of the night.
I have met other people that use things like guided imagery or
meditation before going to sleep.  According to them it works greatly.
If you are having sleep problems this can be another tool to
experiment with.
I have heard also, that avoiding looking at the clock while trying to
sleep is helpful.  So, I recommend to put the clock in a way you can't
see it. I use my phone as a clock at night.  When is time to sleep I
flip it upside down.
In my opinion, good sleep hygiene does not involve only the act of
sleeping but is a process that includes the person and the
environment. A neat environment can contribute to feeling at ease.
Only you know what bothers you and what might help.  Others can only
offer advice.
Remember, that after a brain injury we have to adjust the environment
to maintain our independence.  The same goes to sleep. We have to make
adjustments to succeed at having a good night sleep.  Keep trying and
you will see that you will succeed.



  1. I suffered a brain injury and have major issues waking. I feel like it's impossible some days. Getting to sleep is tough too, my body doesn't register tired the same way.
    Thanks for the tips.

  2. Great post! A TBI survivor, also, I find that I have a difficult time sleeping only when I take a nap in the middle of the day for several hours. But even then, usually I'm out like a light by 11. And for this reason, I began drinking coffee all day, everyday--just to give myself a bit of a boost.

    Unfortunately, I would wake at 3, 4, or 5 am, every single day of the week! Infuriating! I just wanted to sleep until 7:00. The result, was that I fell asleep by 7:30 or 8 pm.

    It took me almost 22 years since my TBI to learn about caffeine addiction and that this is what caused many of my sleep problems. Caffeine is reported to cause the lack of mental alertness in the habitual drinker, which I certainly was. Additionally, caffeine addiction can cause symptoms such as paranoia and anxiety.

    Now, I drink about 2 cups of caffeinated drinks per day, and guess what---I'm sleeping until 7:00!

    As far as having a recording of Tstorms or a fountain in your room, I am all for that. I have a machine which can play sounds of a low tide, thunderstorms, or crickets. When I go out of town, I have the hardest time getting to sleep if I forget my crickets.

    For other information about long road to recovery, please visit

  3. My husband has a horrible time sleeping. Vivid combat dreams, auditory and visual hallucinations are the main causes. He has TBI and combat PTSD.

    Some days he will come to bed at 3am and sleep until 7am, other days he will not come to bed at all.

    Very stressful for all concerned.

    I will try and talk to him about your recommendations, at this point, after 6 years of this behavior I am ready for anything!

  4. I had a TBI injury just after the first of the year. I used hyperbaric oxygen therapy help me recover. I have helped create a website listing all facilities offering hyperbaric therapy nation wide. it is I hope it can help someone as it helped me.