After you’ve been injured in a car accident, your doctor will recommend that you get plenty of rest. But what if that proves to be impossible? What if you go to bed but lie there awake night after night, staring at the ceiling and unable to get the sleep that your body and mind need to recover?
There are three common reasons why you may experience insomnia after a collision. They are:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Insomnia in the wake of a car accident can be a sign of stress. After overstimulation, neurochemicals like epinephrine and adrenaline can flood your brain and keep you awake at night. You may also feel the need to constantly be ‘on guard’ for future danger, which makes it impossible to relax.
If the inability to sleep is accompanied by flashbacks of the accident, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies suggest that 70-91% of patients with PTSD have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries are a common result of a motor vehicle accident. The symptoms will vary according to the location and severity of the injury. They can range from headache and pain in the neck area to mobility problems and even paralysis. Unless their symptoms are immediately noticeable, victims may not realize that they have sustained a spinal cord injury until later.
A study in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine found that people with spinal cord injuries are more likely to suffer from insomnia due to pain, muscle spasms, frequent urination, restless legs syndrome, and similar symptoms. Any sleep-related issues in this context should be investigated further.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Insomnia after a car accident can also be a sign that you’ve sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Motor vehicle collisions are the third leading cause of TBI: according to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2006 and 2010, more than 240,000 car accident victims suffered TBIs.
Head injuries can impact your ability to sleep when the region of the brain that regulates your sleep cycle is damaged during the collision. One study carried out by Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu found that out of 35 patients with mild TBI, 89% experienced insomnia. Another study found that one-third of patients who suffered a concussion reported sleep problems within the first 10 days after injury. That number climbed to 50% at six weeks after being injured.
How Insomnia Affects Your Well-Being
Besides being symptomatic of a potentially life-threatening condition, insomnia can affect your brain’s ability to function and take a serious toll on your mental and physical health in the following ways:
- Cognitive difficulties. The inability to sleep can impair your memory and make it difficult to concentrate or retain new information. If you are working or going to school, poor performance can put your future at risk.
- Health problems: Lack of sleep has been connected to increased risk for medical conditions such as stroke, seizures, obesity, and heart disease.
- Emotional distress: When you aren’t sleeping well, you can experience depression and anxiety that worsens over time. You may even take out your anger on the people you love, which affects your personal relationships.
- Giving up certain activities: You may have to give up activities like driving, because daytime exhaustion can affect your attention and reflexes, putting you at greater risk for a motor vehicle accident. If your job requires you to operate a motor vehicle, you could lose your livelihood.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Insomnia or any other sleep disorder experienced in the wake of a collision should always be reported immediately to your doctor. The symptoms of the spinal cord or traumatic brain injury are not always obvious immediately after the car accident. They may take time to appear and can be erroneously attributed to other causes.
At Fales & Fales, P.A., we regularly represent and fight for those who have been injured in car accidents. When injury-related insomnia affects your quality of life, we will calculate and help you pursue fair compensation that reflects all of your losses. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us.