Sleep difficulties one year following mild traumatic brain injury in a population-based study

Sleep Med. 2015 Aug;16(8):926-32. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.04.013. Epub 2015 May 15.


Background: Sleep quality affects all aspects of daily functioning, and it is vital for facilitating recovery from illness and injury. Sleep commonly becomes disrupted following moderate to severe brain injury, yet little is known about the prevalence of sleep disruption over time and how it impacts on recovery following mild injury.

Methods: This was a longitudinal study of 346 adults who experienced a mild brain injury (aged ≥16 years) identified within a population-based incidence sample in New Zealand. The prevalence of sleep difficulties was assessed at baseline (within two weeks), one, six and 12 months, alongside other key outcomes.

Results: One year post injury, 41.4% of people were identified as having clinically significant sleep difficulties, with 21.0% at a level indicative of insomnia. Poor sleep quality at baseline was significantly predictive of poorer post-concussion symptoms, mood, community integration, and cognitive ability one year post injury. The prevalence of insomnia following mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) was more than three times the rate found in the general population. Of those completing a sleep assessment at six and 12 months, 44.9% of the sample showed improvements in sleep quality, 16.2% remained stable, and 38.9% worsened.

Conclusions: Screening for sleep difficulties should occur routinely following a mild brain injury to identify adults potentially at risk of poor recovery. Interventions to improve sleep are needed to facilitate recovery from injury, and to prevent persistent sleep difficulties emerging.

Keywords: Adult; Epidemiology; Mild traumatic brain injury; Recovery; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors