This study examined whether sleep disturbances were associated with neurobehavioral outcome following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a well characterized group of service members and veterans.
Six-hundred and six participants were enrolled into the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, 15-Year Longitudinal TBI study. All participants completed a battery of tests measuring self-reported sleep disturbances, neurobehavioral symptoms, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder PTSD symptoms. Data were analyzed using analysis of variance with post-hoc comparisons. Four groups were analyzed separately: uncomplicated mild TBI (MTBI); complicated mild, moderate, severe, or penetrating – combined TBI (CTBI); injured controls (IC, i.e., orthopedic or soft-tissue injury without TBI); and non-injured controls (NIC).
A higher proportion of the MTBI group reported moderate-severe sleep disturbances (66.5%) compared to the IC (54.9%), CTBI (47.5%), and NIC groups (34.3%). Participants classified as having Poor Sleep had significantly worse scores on the majority of TBI-QOL scales compared to those classified as having Good Sleep, regardless of TBI severity or the presence of TBI. There was a significant interaction between sleep disturbances and PTSD. While sleep disturbances and PTSD by themselves were significant factors associated with worse outcome, both factors combined resulted in worse outcome than either singularly.
Regardless of group (injured or NIC), sleep disturbances were common and were associated with significantly worse neurobehavioral functioning. When experienced concurrently with PTSD, sleep disturbances pose significant burden to service members and veterans.

© 2021 American Academy of Sleep Medicine.