The Law Offices of Chaikin and Sherman, P.C.
Toll Free -
Phone - 202.659.8600
Fax - 202.659.8680
TBI and Sleep Disorders in Veterans with PTSD
Washington, DC, Maryland & Virginia
Recent media attention has increased public awareness of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their struggle to receive proper care and treatment. TBI has become the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as hundreds of thousands of soldiers have returned with brain injuries from roadside bomb explosions and other injuries.
Our soldiers are surviving severe head injuries that would have been deadly in previous conflicts because of improvements in protective gear. New research presented to the American College of Chest Physicians Annual Meeting in November 2010 has now confirmed another challenge facing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan—TBI increases the prevalence of sleep disorders in veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
TBI and PTSD in Veterans
Recognition of PTSD in soldiers who have experienced traumatic events in Iraq and Afghanistan is growing thanks to increased awareness and research. The link between TBI and PTSD is complicated and confusing, especially for returning veterans trying to find an explanation for their symptoms. The symptoms of TBI and PTSD in veterans often overlap. Both cause memory lapses, confusion, behavioral and mood changes, as well as trouble sleeping. If a soldier is diagnosed with PTSD for these symptoms, medical professionals may miss an underlying traumatic brain injury.
In addition, both TBI and PTSD are common among soldiers who have been hurt in an explosion such as those caused by the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) commonly used by our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. A soldier in an IED blast may be both physically injured and psychologically traumatized by that experience, leaving him or her with both TBI and PTSD.
TBI, PTSD, and Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders are extremely common, nearly universal, among soldiers affected by PTSD. A new study of 80 soldiers with PTSD in treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC found that TBI increased the prevalence of these sleep disorders. About half the soldiers studied had suffered a traumatic brain injury. The researchers, led by Dr. Nick Orr, found that soldiers with TBI from blast injuries were more likely to suffer sleep fragmentation and insomnia and soldiers with TBI from blunt force trauma were more likely to suffer from somnolence (chronic drowsiness or daytime sleepiness) and obstructive sleep apnea.
This research both reinforces the link between TBI and PTSD symptoms and highlights a need for better screening for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. If you or your loved one is affected by a PTSD-related sleep disorder, it may be prudent to speak with a doctor about whether TBI is also a factor.
If you believe that you or someone in your family may have a traumatic brain injury, please contact the Washington, DC TBI law firm of Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., also serving Maryland and Virginia, for a complimentary case evaluation.