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Concussions “can cause life-long sleep problems”, study reveals

Serious brain injuries and concussion could cause life-long sleep problems, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NUST), adds to the growing body of evidence underlining the considerable impact of acquired brain injury (ABI) and the need for extensive long-term monitoring.

According to the paper, people who experience concussions suffer common short-term symptoms, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, an increased need for sleep or difficulty sleeping.

But while most patients fully recover after a number of days or weeks, some individuals suffer long-term problems that could affect their quality of life, work and school, the researchers say.

One of these “lingering symptoms” is difficulty sleeping, which could be caused one or more of the many primary symptoms associated with brain trauma.

The investigation compared the health histories of 378 patients who had sustained a concussion and were treated in the emergency department, as well as control patients who had not suffered a brain injury, over a one-year period.

It was found that 136 patients had experienced a sleep or daytime problem two weeks after injury, while 72 had problems lasting more than three months.

Commenting on the study, author Berg Saksvik said: “We found that problems like an increased need for sleep, poor sleep quality, daytime drowsiness and fatigue occurred much more often and lasted longer after concussions than after other types of injuries.”

He added: “Sleep problems are often associated with issues like poor memory, concentration difficulties, depression and anxiety. Treating sleep problems as early as possible as after a concussion may help slow down or prevent the development of such problems.”

According to the latest statistics, there were 348,000 admissions to UK hospitals with an acquired brain injury in 2016-17 – the latest data available.

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