Sleep is still good for a brain affected by TBI

Most people find that their brain works better after they have had a good night’s sleep. It seems that this is true for victims of mild traumatic brain injury, even when that injury is causing sleep disturbances.

A new study discussed in Psych Central found that people recovering from a mild TBI, also known as concussion, did better on memory tests after getting some sleep. A concussion can cause changes in what the researchers call “sleep architecture,” but even imperfect sleep seems to help with short-term memory for those dealing with this form of brain injury.

The test was relatively simple. Participants were young adults aged 18 to 22 who sustained a concussion more than a year earlier, with an average of three to four years from injury, or adults with no history of brain injury. All of them underwent word-memorization tests, in which they studied a list of word pairs, then were tested 12 hours later. Some of them learned the word pairs in the morning and were tested in the evening; the rest studied in the evening, went to bed, and were tested in the morning.

When the participants did the test shortly after sleeping, they did better than the group tested in the evening. Though the researchers noted that those with a concussion in their past experienced sleep differently, their short-term recall still benefitted from hitting the sack.

How the brain is affected by trauma is still mysterious in many ways. As scientists learn more, they may be able to develop new, more effective treatment options for TBI that will help victims recover faster and more completely.