Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sleep, Traumatic Injuries & Mental Health

A new study evaluated how sleep problems prior to a traumatic injury may affect mental health. The results were published in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

The study was performed in Australia. It involved 1,033 people who had a traumatic injury. They spent an average of 12.5 days in the hospital.

About 65 percent were hurt in a motor-vehicle accident. Fifteen percent were injured in a traumatic fall. Seven percent had an industrial accident. And six percent were victims of assault.

An initial assessment took place during their hospital admission. This included an evaluation of sleep disturbance in the two weeks prior to the injury. They were re-assessed three months later.

Results show that mental health problems were common at the three-month follow-up. Thirty percent of people who had no prior disorder developed a new psychiatric disorder after the injury.

The most common disorders were
major depression and agoraphobia. Other common disorders were PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.

Data analysis found that sleep impairment prior to the injury was a risk factor for the development of a mental health disorder. People with disturbed sleep prior to trauma were two times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder.

The risk was even greater for people with no history of mental health problems. They were three times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder if they had sleep problems prior to the trauma.

The authors suggested that sleep problems may limit your ability to manage stress after a traumatic event. Poor sleep may reduce your emotional, mental and physical resources. This may hinder your recovery.

They also noted that sleep problems may have contributed directly to the traumatic injuries. Disturbed sleep can result in fatigue, poor concentration and slow reaction times.

In November the Sleep Education Blog
reported that the higher rate of insomnia in women may be linked to mental health problems such as depression. Read more about sleep and depression.

Get help for a sleep problem at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.
Image by Joe

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