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Brain injury and sleep – It’s not all bad news!

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Many people living with long-term effects of concussion and other traumatic brain injuries may be very interested to know that:

  • Studies suggest that up to 70% of people with concussion and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI) develop sleep disturbances, with a significant portion going on to live with chronic insomnia for years.

  • Insomnia is known to not only cause – but also worsen – other brain injury symptoms, such as:

    • fatigue

    • cognitive impairments

    • memory

    • irritability

    • pain, including migraines

    • depression

    • anxiety and

    • impaired overall quality of life

  • Ongoing insomnia can therefore compromise recovery and functional outcomes following a brain injury.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a medication-free therapy that has been found in research to improve these very symptoms in many individuals (both with and without TBI).

  • While damage to the brain area involved in the sleep-wake cycle may be a factor for certain people with TBI, some sleep specialists believe that many symptoms commonly believed to be long term consequences of TBI, may actually be improved by proper treatment of insomnia.

Getting better quality of sleep, means getting more slow wave sleep – that’s the deep restorative stage of sleep involved in cellular repair, so important for pain and other conditions.

CBT-I is an evidence-based approach to insomnia, shown in research to be as effective as sleep medications within a few weeks, but safer and longer lasting. As such, it is considered the “gold standard” in insomnia therapy and is recommended as first line treatment by the American College of Physicians, US Institutes of Health, Canadian Sleep Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, to name a few.

CBT-I typically requires between 5 and 8 sessions. Many employee and student health plans cover CBT-I services from a Registered Clinical Counsellor. We also provide treatment for nightmare disorder or recurring nightmares, another common outcome of traumatic injuries.


Insomnia Help Canada also offers a convenient, lower cost self-paced online program on Effective Strategies for Chronic Insomnia, available world-wide.

If you’re living with the impacts of concussion or other brain injury and are struggling to get good restorative sleep, please know that recovering from insomnia may well be within your reach.

Do you know someone living with the impacts of concussion or other brain injury? Please feel free to share this article.

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