Sleeping too much after a head injury may be scary to survivors and their loved ones, but it can help the body and brain recover and conserve energy. Also, sleep is vital for post-traumatic brain injury healing.
If prolonged sleepiness persists after a brain injury, a post-traumatic hypersomnia diagnosis may be made that can prove beneficial.
It is important to note that post-traumatic hypersomnia is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and nighttime sleep durations of more than the recommended 8 hours.
In this article, we will explore post-traumatic hypersomnia and its associated symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment choices.
Is Too Much Sleeping After a Head Injury Normal?
While sleeping helps to heal traumatic brain injury, it raises the question of whether or not excessive sleep following a concussion is to be expected. In a word, yes! After sustaining a brain injury, the survivor’s natural response is to need more rest.
About 20% of your overall energy goes to the brain, and it rises as the brain tries to mend itself after an injury. Since the brain needs time to recharge and repair itself, this is a perfectly natural and necessary behavior.
Additionally, getting enough sleep after a traumatic brain injury has numerous beneficial effects. For instance, many TBI survivors aim to learn and remember how to execute physical tasks throughout rehabilitation, and excellent sleep has proven to aid in this process.
Survivors may have trouble with their alertness and cognitive processes, particularly their working memory and attention, after having a head injury; sleep might help.
After A Head Injury, How Much Sleep is Too Much Sleep?
Patients recouping from a traumatic brain injury should prioritize self-care and get enough rest. However, if napping throughout the day disrupts nocturnal sleep, survivors must cut back on how long they nap during the day.
For instance, setting an alarm to wake you up after a 30-minute nap during the day can assist you to avoid letting it affect your overnight sleep.
Once again, only survivors who have trouble sleeping at night should limit their nap time. Taking extended naps during the day while simultaneously getting enough rest at night is a healthy and natural pattern. Your brain will be able to heal if you sleep in the most comfortable position.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Hypersomnia
The advantages of sleep are well-documented, but excessive sleep after a brain injury could be a sign of post-traumatic hypersomnia.
The quantity and quality of your sleep, along with other relevant indicators like daytime exhaustion, are worth analyzing if you’re worried that you could be sleeping too much.
You may not feel completely refreshed in the morning, even after getting a full night’s sleep.
Other symptoms of post-traumatic hypersomnia include:
- Having a decreased appetite
- Slowed or delayed speech
- Memory difficulties
- Sleeping 10+ hours a night
Many people mistake narcolepsy, another sleep disease that causes excessive sleep or lethargy, with post-traumatic hypersomnia. The manner an individual nods off to sleep is a major distinguishing factor.
People with narcolepsy know that if their body wants to sleep, it will sleep whenever it gets a chance, no matter how inconvenient the surroundings may be. Those with post-traumatic hypersomnia may feel weary but can typically force themselves to stay up if necessary, unlike those without the disorder.
Keeping track of your symptoms and consulting your doctor will help you achieve a thorough diagnosis.
Causes of Post-Traumatic Hypersomnia
Motor dysfunction, like hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body), is among the most frequent long-term effects of a brain injury.
When communication between the brain and the wounded muscles slows down, even the simplest of tasks becomes difficult.
Some of the surviving population, for example, might take longer than normal to awaken, bathe, and get dressed. These pursuits can be so exhausting that they make themselves want to take a nap straight afterward: and this is natural.
Excessive drowsiness after a brain injury requires more energy to perform daily tasks. Yet, there are additional aspects to think about, such as the injury’s site and any collateral effects.
Trauma to the areas of the brain that control sleep and wakefulness can result in sleep problems.
The neuropeptide hypocretin-1 regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Hypocretin-1 levels have been found to be lower in people with mild to severe traumatic brain injury. And this can result in post-traumatic hypersomnia.
Contributing Factors for Post-Traumatic Hypersomnia
Even though extreme drowsiness is sometimes a natural component of the healing process, it is crucial to identify and address any underlying causes. Your doctor will check for illnesses like depression and hypothyroidism.
Symptoms like excessive sleepiness or not sleeping enough, are common subsequent consequences of TBI. If depression is the underlying cause of post-traumatic hypersomnia in survivors, then doctors may prescribe antidepressants or recommend counseling.
Endocrine conditions like hypothyroidism result in poor sleep. Hypothyroidism can cause extreme fatigue, vulnerability to colds, unexpected weight gain or loss, and excessive napping.
If your doctor has a reason to believe that thyroid or endocrine dysfunction is the cause of your post-traumatic hypersomnia. They may prescribe a blood test to measure your thyroid hormone levels.
3. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is characterized by periodic pauses in breathing during sleep and disrupts the quality of sleep. This sleep condition could be caused by many factors, such as brain stem injury or lack of oxygen. Those who have sleep apnea may wake up with headaches, feel irritable, or have trouble concentrating.
C-PAP machines, which deliver oxygen through a mask placed over the nose and/or mouth, are effective treatments for sleep apnea. The point is to get more oxygen to your brain while you sleep so you can feel less exhausted and wake up refreshed.
Post-traumatic hypersomnia is hard to diagnose because there is currently no reliable test for it.
A thorough assessment of the patient’s medical history, current physical state, sleep habits, length, and quality are frequently necessary for the diagnosis of post-traumatic hypersomnia.
The patient may be asked about any recent traumatic experiences, such as vehicle accidents or deaths in the family, by their healthcare professional. The doctor will also ask about medications, substances, or medical conditions that they feel may be the cause of insomnia.
Sometimes, doctors will order sleep tests like polysomnography so they can monitor the patient’s heart rate, respiration, and brain activity as they sleep.
Sleep problems like obstructive sleep apnea and periodic limb movements can be detected with these diagnostic tools. Hypersomnia might be further investigated by psychological testing for underlying mood or anxiety disorders.
Treatment Options for Post-Traumatic Hypersomnia
Medications and lifestyle changes are often used in the treatment of post-traumatic hypersomnia. This condition to treat may be post-traumatic insomnia. Because of their adverse cognitive consequences, which can be exacerbated in a patient with traumatic brain injury, benzos should be avoided.
Benzodiazepines come with a high risk of abuse and dependence, which makes doctors reluctant to prescribe them. In particular, Zolpidem, the longer-acting Eszopiclone, and the shorter-acting Zaleplon are often used as non-benzodiazepine receptor agonists.
These drugs generally help people fall asleep and/or stay asleep. But they often have some unsettling side effects like complex sleep-related behaviors.
Daytime alertness can be increased with the aid of stimulants like Modafinil or Armodafinil. Care should be used when using them, though, as prolonged usage might result in tolerance and reliance.
When a person has post-traumatic hypersomnia, regular exercise can help them get better sleep and feel less groggy during the day. It’s crucial to consult with your doctor when beginning a new workout regimen.
Those who struggle with post-traumatic hypersomnia may find relief from stress and better sleep quality through breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation.
The Bottom Line
While sleeping a lot after a brain injury may seem worrying, it’s completely normal and helpful for TBI recovery. Survivors with post-traumatic hypersomnia could feel worn out, sleepy, low on energy, and more. Always listen to your body and take time to rest.
Excessive sleeping may also be a sign of other illnesses, such as depression or sleep apnea. Consult your doctor if you have any such issues so they can recommend the necessary medication, such as stimulants, to help manage the symptoms and regain energy.
Regrettably, it’s crucial to remember that sleeping a lot after a brain injury is normal and essential to the brain’s ability to heal and speed up your recovery.