The effect of concussion on sleep

Footballers will be the focus of a world-first study exploring the effects of concussion on sleep.

Dr David Stevens from the Adelaide Institute of Sleep Health will study footballers playing across various grades during the 2020 season, to determine whether their sleep is disrupted during the acute post-concussion period – the seven days following the injury. It’s the first time researchers will take a close look at the effects of concussion on sleep during this period.

Ongoing monitoring will also investigate whether sleep disturbances are associated with postconcussion syndrome symptoms, such as confusion, nausea and amnesia, in the six weeks following the injury. Whilst research to date has demonstrated a severe traumatic brain injury, such as that experienced in a motor vehicle accident, often results in chronic sleep problems, there has been very little research examining the effect of concussion on acute sleep.

Dr Stevens says findings from this work could prove valuable in determining the extent of concussion-related sleep disturbance, and whether sleep disruptions impact the recovery from the concussion. The ultimate aim, he says, is to develop strategies to improve sleep to potentially improve recovery from concussion. Within Australia, more than one million people are involved in contact sports including AFL, Rugby Union and Rugby League, with one-quarter of participants being women. Recently, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), an irreversible neurodegenerative disorder, has gained widespread media attention due to its exclusive presence in former contact sport participants.

CTE sufferers experience cognitive decline, memory impairment, and mental health issues, culminating in dementia and parkinsons later in life. Long-term poor sleep is also associated with these conditions. It’s possible that concussion-induced sleep disruption may potentially impact CTE development in later life, something with Dr Stevens would like to help explore.


Project title: The effect of concussion on sleep – a potential mediator of concussion related neurocognitive decline

Lead researcher: Dr David Stevens

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