A good night’s sleep can help your brain recover from traumatic injury

A study suggests that people who sleep well are likely to recover faster from traumatic brain injuries like concussions.
sleep and brain
Healthy habits means better brain health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
ANI Published: 15 Mar 2021, 04:33 pm IST
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There is no denying that getting a sound sleep at night is extremely important for our overall health. After all, not only does sleep help our mind and body recover—it also helps our metabolism, immunity, and heart function work efficiently.

But there’s another benefit of a good night’s sleep that has come to light. A new study has found that sound sleep plays a critical role in healing traumatic brain injury.

The findings of the study were published in the ‘Journal of Neurotrauma’. The study used a new technique involving magnetic resonance imaging developed at Oregon Health and Science University.

Good sleep equals better brain health

Researchers used MRI to evaluate the enlargement of perivascular spaces that surround blood vessels in the brain. Enlargement of these spaces occurs in ageing and is associated with the development of dementia.

Among veterans in the study, those who slept poorly had more evidence of these enlarged spaces and more post-concussive symptoms.

“This has huge implications for the armed forces as well as civilians,” said lead author Juan Piantino, M.D., MCR, assistant professor of pediatrics (neurology) in the OHSU School of Medicine and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Piantino added, “This study suggests sleep may play an important role in clearing waste from the brain after traumatic brain injury—and if you don’t sleep very well, you might not clean your brain as efficiently.”

Piantino, a physician-scientist with OHSU’s Pape Family Pediatric Research Institute, studies the effects of poor sleep on recovery after traumatic brain injuries.

The new study benefited from a method of analysing MRIs developed by study co-author Daniel Schwartz and Erin Boespflug, Ph.D., under the direction of Lisa Silbert, M.D., M.C.R., professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine. The technique measures changes in the brain’s perivascular spaces, which are part of the brain’s waste clearance system known as the glymphatic system.

sleep and brain
Better sleep may play an important role in your brain health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“We were able to very precisely measure this structure and count the number, location, and diameter of channels,” Piantino said.

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Sleeping patterns can help predict cognitive problems

During sleep, this brain-wide network clears away metabolic proteins that would otherwise build up in the brain.

Says Piantino: “Imagine your brain is generating all this waste and everything is working fine. Now you get a concussion. The brain generates much more waste that it has to remove, but the system becomes plugged.”

Piantino said the new study suggested the technique developed by Silbert could be useful for older adults.

“Longer term, we can start thinking about using this method to predict who is going to be at higher risk for cognitive problems including dementia,” he said.

The study is the latest in a growing body of research highlighting the importance of sleep in brain health.

Improving sleep is a modifiable habit that can be improved through a variety of methods, Piantino said, including better sleep hygiene habits such as reducing screen time before bed.

“This study puts sleep at the epicenter of recovery in traumatic brain injury,” Piantino concluded.

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