Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to disability & death and can result in significant motor, sensory, cognitive and emotional impairments. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. Even mild TBI can be associated with headache, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, impaired balance and coordination, vision changes, tinnitus, mood and memory changes, difficulty with memory and attention, fatigue and/or sleep disturbances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mild head trauma with an alteration in mental state is referred to as “concussion”. A concussion is classified by 3 grades and provides corresponding activity-limiting recommendations.

  • Grade 1 concussion involves confusion that lasts less than 15 minutes of absent loss of consciousness (LOC). In this instance, the athlete may return to activity following 15 minutes if they have a normal side line neurologic exam with rest and exertion. The athlete should abstain from play for a week if he/she had a previous grade 1 concussion.
  • Grade 2 concussion also does involve LOC, but here the confusion persists for more than 15 minutes. In this instance, the athlete should not return to play for 1 week and if the athlete has suffered a previous grade 2 concussion, he should refrain from participation for 2 weeks.
  • Grade 3 concussion and any LOC with athletic head injury is serious. If this is the athlete’s first high grade concussion then she/he should not participate in athletics for 1 week (if LOC lasted only seconds), 2 weeks (if LOC lasted minutes) or a month in the presence of multiple grade 3 concussions. It is known that repetitive head injuries can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy or dementia pugilistica. 

It is not uncharacteristic for traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients to experience some type of sleep disorder. 30% to 70% of TBI patients experience a sleep disturbance in some form.

Your brain is responsible to tell you when to sleep and when to wake up (internal clock), which means a brain injury can change how well it regulates your sleep pattern.

For the body and brain to recharge, adequate sleep is necessary. After a TBI, sleep is especially important, because it will help the injured part of your body/brain to heal. Sleep disturbances can interfere with your ability to sleep and therefore it can interfere with your brain’s healing process following your injury.

There are several common sleep disorders that TBI patients may experience, such as:

  • Insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep)
  • Sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep)
  • Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged night time sleep).

Sleep disturbances can cause you to feel irritable, affect your brain’s functioning and ability to concentrate and take a toll on your emotions. In some cases, patients may experience anxiety following a TBI, which can also be a sign of a sleep disturbance. 

Anxiety and other changes in mood present a dilemma-does the change in mood cause the sleep disturbance or does the sleep disturbance cause the change in mood? Regardless of which comes first, it’s important to talk to your health care provider about the ways in which you can address any of the symptoms you’re experiencing related to changes in your mood and/or your sleeping habits.

TBI patients' sleep disorders often go undiagnosed, which means they might not be properly treated. Several symptoms of sleep disturbances are similar to those you might experience after a TBI and therefore the lack of diagnosis and treatment.

Treating patients with sleep disturbances and TBI presents additional challenges, i.e. health care providers must take special care when prescribing any medications to help with your sleep disturbance, because certain drugs meant to help you sleep can weaken your brain’s ability to repair and recover following your injury. If you are a TBI patient experiencing any sleep disturbances, talk to your doctor about the ways your sleep issues can be evaluated and treated. If your sleep disturbance is recognised and treated early on, it’s possible you could have an improved recovery.

1. Dietary Considerations for a Healthy Brain

The exceptionally high rate of metabolism in the brain makes it particularly responsive to the nutritional content of the diet. A Western diet that is high in simple carbohydrates and dietary fat is bad for the body and the brain. Changing this to a Mediterranean diet will improve the nutrients the brain needs for optimal function.

2. Mediterranean Diet

A great deal of scientific literature validates the Mediterranean diet as a staple for those concerned with cardiovascular health, cognitive health and longevity. The diet focuses on “good” fats – mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, especially omega-3’s and olive oil, multi-colored fruits and vegetables. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been linked with improved insulin sensitivity, lipid metabolism, blood pressure, reduced risk of developing cancer or metabolic syndrome, as well as an overall decrease in mortality.

The brain also benefits greatly from the health-promoting lipids and antioxidants that are ample in the Mediterranean diet. An abundance of scientific literature concedes that adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with better cognitive performance in a variety of populations.

3. Brain Training

Your brain is central to everything; from how easily you remember to how fast you complete tasks and how easily you solve problems. Brain Training is related to an almost endless variety of mental activities, from what you think, to what you do.

Brain Training ensures that its protocols provide the maximum benefit for your long term cognitive health, from the speed of your brain, memory, flexibility, attention to problem solving. Brain training can improve your memory loss – it is the same principle when training a muscle to get stronger, here you train the brain to remember things more clearly.

4. Calorie Restriction

Calorie restriction is the restriction of caloric intake to a level modestly below normal, typically 20% to 30% less, but the diet should be dense with micronutrients to maintain optimal nutrition. Calorie restriction is well-known for its ability to induce favorable changes in peripheral insulin sensitivity, which enhances insulin signaling in the central nervous system. The brain relies greatly on proper insulin signaling for a variety of functions that impact cognition and so it is not surprising that calorie restriction has been shown to benefit cognitive function in many studies.

5. Alcohol Consumption

By the same token, heavy alcohol consumption is bad for overall health and should be avoided at all costs.

6. Moderate Caffeinated Coffee Consumption

Moderate coffee consumption has been shown to have a protective effect on the brain. Coffee, like red wine, is an excellent source of antioxidant and neuroprotective compounds.

7. Undergo a Sleep study and ensure that you don’t have Sleep Apnea.

Overnight Sleep studies done in the comfort of your home will diagnose OSA or UARS which have a negative effect on overall health and brain function.

Correcting this problem could give you a new lease on life and loads of energy!

Sharon Izak Elaine Chat staff