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Brain Injuries Can Disrupt Sleep

People who have suffered from severe brain injuries may produce low amounts of melatonin, which affects their sleep, according to findings from a study published in Neurology.

People with brain injuries may produce low amounts of melatonin, which affects their sleep, according to findings from a study published in Neurology.

For the study, 23 people who had a severe traumatic brain injury an average of 14 months earlier spent two nights in a sleep laboratory, along with 23 healthy participants. Subjects in the latter group produced more melatonin than those with brain injuries in the evening hours, when melatonin levels are supposed to rise to signal sleep.

“These results suggest that the brain injury may disrupt the brain structures that regulate sleep, including the production of melatonin,” said study author Shantha Rajaratnam, PhD, of Monash University in Victoria, Australia. “Future studies should examine whether taking supplemental melatonin can improve sleep in people with brain injuries.”

The people with brain injuries had other differences in their sleep patterns, exhibiting a “sleep efficiency” percentage of 82, compared with 90% for the healthy group. They also spent an average of 62 minutes per night awake after initially falling asleep, compared with 27 minutes for the healthy group, according to the study.

In addition, those with brain injuries spent an average of 24% of their time in slow-wake sleep, compared with 20% for the healthy participants. They also exhibited more symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The study was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.