Can better sleep help with concussion symptoms?
When you sustain a concussion, doctors recommend that you get as much sleep and rest as possible, especially in the first few days. But how soundly you sleep may have a significant impact on your recovery.
New recommendations developed by an expert sleep panel hope to demonstrate that better sleep can improve concussion outcomes.
The group’s chair, Dr. Emerson Wickwire, an assistant professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says sleep and brain injury appear to share overlapping brain circuits. But despite current efforts, improving outcomes and reducing the number of patients who suffer long-term effects of concussion has not been very successful.
The group, also comprised of experts from medicine, the military and private industry, recommends creating data repositories of sleep-specific information, conducting serial assessments of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients at various time intervals to determine who develops long-term sleep disorders, and offering sleep-specific education for head injury medical professionals, among other proposals.
“These recommendations are interesting because they are quite focused on sleep as the issue in concussion patients while neglecting the major role the neck plays,” says Dr. Marc Hilgers, a sports medicine and concussion clinic physician at Advocate Dreyer in Aurora, Ill. “There has been a push recently to call concussions ‘cervico-cranial syndromes’ to better incorporate the role that a dysfunctional cervical spine plays in the presentation of minor traumatic brain injuries.”
Dr. Hilgers does agree that sleep, and especially proper sleep, is important for the recovery of patients who have suffered a minor traumatic brain injury.
“How better to rest a restless organ than to sleep?” asks Dr. Hilgers. “The question that might still need to be answered is how does a chemically induced sleep compare with natural sleep for brain recovery.”
Experts recommend consulting with a physician immediately after concussion symptoms appear to determine a recovery plan.
One thing is for certain: The link between sleep and concussions require additional study.
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