The effect of traumatic brain injury on the timing of sleep

D L Steele, S M W Rajaratnam, J R Redman, J L Ponsford
Chronobiology International 2005, 22 (1): 89-105
While there have been single case reports of the development of circadian rhythm sleep disorders, most commonly delayed sleep phase syndrome following traumatic brain injury (TBI), to our knowledge there have been no group investigations of changes to sleep timing in this population. The aim of the present study was to investigate sleep timing following TBI using the dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) as a marker of circadian phase and the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) as a measure of sleep-wake behavior. A sleep-wake diary was also completed. It was hypothesized that the timing of DLMO would be delayed and that there would be a greater tendency toward eveningness on the MEQ in a post-acute TBI group (n=10) compared to a gender and age matched control group. Participants were recruited at routine outpatient review appointments (TBI) and from the general population (control) as part of a larger study. They attended the sleep laboratory where questionnaires were completed, some retrospectively, and saliva melatonin samples were collected half-hourly according to a standard protocol. The results show that the TBI and control groups reported similar habitual sleep times and this was reflected on the MEQ. There was, however, significant variability in the TBI group's change from the pre-injury to the current MEQ score. The timing of melatonin onset was not different between the groups. While subtle changes (advances or delays) in this small sample may have cancelled each other out,. the present study does not provide conclusive objective evidence of shift in circadian timing of sleep following TBI. Furthermore, although participants did report sleep timing changes, it is concluded that the MEQ may not be suitable for use with this cognitively impaired clinical group.

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