Sleep after Brain Injury

Sleep after Brain Injury

Samantha Backhaus, Ph.D., Kathleen R. Bell, M.D., Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.
Sleep disorders after brain injury are common. Sleep patterns can change after a brain injury or TBI, such as trouble falling and staying asleep, waking up too early in the morning and not being able to fall back to sleep. Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can make sleep disorders even more difficult for survivors and family. This tip card helps all survivors with sleep disorders understand the causes, symptoms and available treatments. It includes tips and strategies for coping with sleep disorders.
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Full Description

Difficulty sleeping is one of the most common complaints of survivors of brain injury, especially among adults and veterans. Getting a good night's sleep helps the recovery of survivors of brain injury, and if not attained, can affect their quality of life.

This tip card helps adult and veteran survivors of brain injury learn how to deal with sleep disorders, like insomnia and narcolepsy. Just thinking about the night ahead can be exhausting and stressful for survivors. Sleep disorders can affect all aspects of survivors' lives - at home, at school and on the job. Sleep disorders can also affect cognitive, physical, behavioral and emotional skills and reactions of survivors and affect relationships with family, caregivers, and friends.

Pages 8
Year 2011


Samantha Backhaus, Ph.D.

She is a Clinical Neuropsychologist at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana’s comprehensive outpatient brain injury Neuro Rehab Center. Her primary focus is working with adults who have acquired brain injuries, both providing neuropsychological assessments and formulating appropriate interdisciplinary treatment plans to help individuals reintegrate back to the community. Her passion is working with families with the overall goal of helping the survivor achieve a positive long-term outcome following brain injury. Dr. Backhaus developed a 16-week treatment intervention, the Brain Injury Coping Skills Group (BICS) that won the 2009 McDowell Award for Best Presentation presented by the American Society for Neurorehabilitation. She has won one of the Healthcare Heroes of the Year in her community in 2001 for her work in neurorehabilitation. She is asked to teach this intervention to clinicians throughout the rehabilitation field, both nationally and internationally. She also developed a Peer Mentoring Program for brain injury survivors and family members, as well as chairs a support group called Bridging the Gap, specifically designed to meet the needs of families and caregivers in addition to survivors of BI.

Kathleen R. Bell, M.D.

She is a Professor in the University of Washington's Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and has been the Chief of Service at UW Medical Center since 2006. She has been the Medical Director of the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program at UWMC since l996.

For over 25 years, Dr. Bell has concentrated her clinical care, teaching, and research in the area of brain injury in a variety of settings. She has been the Project Director for the UW Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Model System for the past eight years, and her specific TBI research interests have included telephone-based counseling, post-traumatic headache, exercise after TBI, and medical education.

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Ms. Lash has over 35 years of experience working with persons with disabilities and their families in medical, rehabilitation, educational and vocational settings. Currently, she is President at Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, Inc. in Wake Forest, NC. Author of many publications on the psychosocial impact of brain injury, her writing and training emphasize coping strategies for families and practical interventions by professionals and educators in hospitals, rehabilitation, schools and community programs.

Trained as a social worker at Boston University School of Social work, she has done clinical work as well as program development. While at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, she was Training Director at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Childhood Trauma. She continues to be an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Tufts University School of Medicine.


Trouble Sleeping?

Common Sleep Disorders

  • Insomnia
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Narcolepsy
How common are sleep disorders?
PTSD and Sleep

Benefits of Sleep

What Causes a Sleep Disorder?

Sleep Hygiene – to do and not to do

Tips for managing your sleep…

  • Here is a list of things to avoid:
  • Here is a list of things that help:

Tips for daytime activity to help you sleep…

Medical Evaluation




Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy.

Trouble Sleeping?

Let's face it, we all multitask and try to accomplish many things in a day. For some people, it is normal for to fall asleep around 11 or 12 every night, and sometimes later. Some like to stay up and text or talk on the phone. Others like to work on the computer. Night time is when a lot of people feel they are at their prime. But after a brain injury, getting a good night's sleep is vitally important for a person's recovery.

Trouble sleeping is a common complaint of people after brain injury. It can occur after injuries ranging from mild to severe. Sleep disorders can affect everything from a person's mood to the ability to concentrate. Difficulty sleeping can result in a person feeling more depressed, anxious, tired, and irritable. Difficulty sleeping can impair the person's ability to function at home, in school, or on the job. It can contribute to traffic accidents and injuries on the job. If not treated or managed properly, the survivor's quality of life can be affected. Survivors describe their changes in sleep as:

  • difficulty falling asleep easily
  • trouble staying asleep throughout the night
  • waking up very early in the morning and not falling back asleep
  • falling asleep and awakening far later than desired
  • purposely staying up late at night to get things done.

Examples are:

  • You get into bed around 10 but it takes you several hours to fall asleep.
  • You wake up frequently during the night for no major reason.
  • You wake up at 4 in the morning and cannot fall back asleep.
  • You stay up late every night working on the computer and your partner keeps asking you to come to bed.

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