Are NREM sleep characteristics associated to subjective sleep complaints after mild traumatic brain injury?

Caroline Arbour, Samar Khoury, Gilles J Lavigne, Katia Gagnon, Gaétan Poirier, Jacques Y Montplaisir, Julie Carrier, Nadia Gosselin
Sleep Medicine 2015, 16 (4): 534-9

INTRODUCTION: Sleep complaints are common after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). While recent findings suggest that sleep macro-architecture is preserved in mTBI, features of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep micro-architecture including electroencephalography (EEG) spectral power, slow waves (SW), and sleep spindles could be affected. This study aimed to compare NREM sleep in mTBI and healthy controls, and explore whether NREM sleep characteristics correlate with sleep complaints in these groups.

METHODS: Thirty-four mTBI participants (mean age: 34.2 ± 11.9 yrs; post-injury delay: 10.5 ± 10.4 weeks) and 29 age-matched controls (mean age: 32.4 ± 8.2 yrs) were recruited for two consecutive nights of polysomnographic (PSG) recording. Spectral power was computed and SW and spindles were automatically detected in three derivations (F3, C3, O1) for the first three sleep cycles. Subjective sleep quality was assessed with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

RESULTS: mTBI participants reported significant poorer sleep quality than controls on the PSQI and showed significant increases in beta power during NREM sleep at the occipital derivation only. Conversely, no group differences were found in SW and spindle characteristics. Interestingly, changes in NREM sleep characteristics were not associated with mTBI estimation of sleep quality.

CONCLUSIONS: Compared to controls, mTBI were found to have enhanced NREM beta power. However, these changes were not found to be associated with the subjective evaluation of sleep. While increases in beta bands during NREM sleep may be attributable to the occurrence of a brain injury, they could also be related to the presence of pain and anxiety as suggested in one prior study.

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