Do sleep difficulties exacerbate deficits in sustained attention following traumatic brain injury?

Imogen L M Bloomfield, Colin A Espie, Jonathan J Evans
Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: JINS 2010, 16 (1): 17-25
Sustained attention has been shown to be vulnerable following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Sleep restriction and disturbances have been shown to negatively affect sustained attention. Sleep disorders are common but under-diagnosed after TBI. Thus, it seems possible that sleep disturbances may exacerbate neuropsychological deficits for a proportion of individuals who have sustained a TBI. The aim of this prospective study was to examine whether poor sleepers post-TBI had poorer sustained and general attentional functioning than good sleepers post-TBI. Retrospective subjective, prospective subjective, and objective measures were used to assess participants' sleep. The results showed that the poor sleep group had significantly poorer sustained attention ability than the good sleep group. The differences on other measures of attention were not significant. This study supports the use of measures that capture specific components of attention rather than global measures of attention, and highlights the importance of assessing and treating sleep problems in brain injury rehabilitation.

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