Deep sleep may help brain injury patients

According to a study, inducing deep sleep after people suffer traumatic brain injuries could help protect the brain from further damage. The research could lead to better treatments for brain injury patients in Pennsylvania and worldwide.

Scientists at a Switzerland hospital discovered that enhancing the slow-wave sleep cycle of TBI patients helps maintain brain function. Previous studies have found that TBIs cause a buildup of neurotoxins in the brain and cause damage to axons, which transmit signals between brain cells. However, it is known that deep, slow-wave sleep allows the brain to clear out neurotoxins, and the scientists wanted to see if deep sleep could help injured brains heal.

In the study, researchers induced slow-wave sleep in concussed rats using two methods. The first method involved the use of sodium oxybate, a drug used to treat narcolepsy, to induce the rats into a deep sleep. The second method involved keeping the rats up for long-periods of time and then letting them fall into a deep “rebound” sleep. A third group of rats was given a placebo injection. An electroencephalography test was used to confirm the treated rats achieved slow-wave sleep. The rats who were induced into deep sleep showed nearly 80 percent less protein waste in their brains after treatment than the rats in the control group. The authors of the study believe brain function in TBI patients could be spared by inducing slow-wave sleep immediately after injury.

While often associated with contact sports, a brain injury could be caused by the negligence of another party, such as a car accident. Those who have been injured in such a manner may want to have legal assistance in pursuing compensation from the at-fault party for their medical expenses and other losses.