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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Delayed Neurological Complications after Head Trauma - Sleep Disturbances

Infants who suffered a birth brain injury may have mild, moderate or severe damage. Those with mild to moderate brain injuries could suffer immediate symptoms, or there could be delayed responses.

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Delayed neurological complications after a birth injury can occur at almost any time in the developmental process. As the child gets older, he might experience sleep disturbances which could be due to the original injury suffered during birth. This delayed neurological complication should be diagnosed and evaluated by a physician.

The Brain Controls Sleep

It is important to understand how the body rests. An internal clock provides the body with information that tells it when to wake up and when to slumber. The body produces chemicals that give us the ability to rest. If the brain suffered an injury, it could have problems providing the body with proper starting and stopping of slumber. When the brain’s ability to control rest is affected by damage it could cause a serious disorder called posttraumatic hypersomnia. Hypersomnia is a condition that results in the infant sleeping for longer periods of time than normal.

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Types of Disturbances

There are other types of disturbances that could be caused by problems in the baby’s brain. These are:

  • Apnea – The body stops breathing for short intervals during which time there is a lack of oxygen to the brain.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) – The legs become uncomfortable when left in a lying down position for a long period of time.
  • Teeth Grinding – Grinding the teeth or clenching the teeth is also known as Bruxism.
  • Sleepwalking – Walking or undertaking other activities while not awake or aware can be caused by disturbances.
  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) – The arms and legs move involuntarily while not awake.

Additionally, simply having trouble falling or staying asleep can cause discomfort and create a more difficult time while awake. Insomnia is another disorder that can make it hard to get a good night’s rest. Acute insomnia may last for long periods of time.

Resolving Sleep Disturbances

The first step towards resolving a disturbance is to determine its origin. If the problem indeed stems from a complication after a cerebral injury, the patient should seek medical treatment. There are some things a person can do to try to resolve problems without medication. In severe cases, especially those that may be related to a previous brain injury, the patient may require pharmacological intervention. The patient should have an MRI and other cerebral diagnostic testing is done to find out the exact cause of the sleep disturbance.

A sleep study may be helpful in determining the reason for the difficulties with slumber. The study also called a polysomnography, allows the patient to slumber while performing tests and observing the patient. The infant’s cerebral activity and other vital signs are recorded. A doctor will evaluate the study to determine a probable cause. The results can be used to help find a resolution for the problem. Studies are generally done through a special hospital unit or at a clinic that specializes in sleep disorders.

It is possible that newborns with brain injuries don’t spend as much time in REM sleep as those who did not have an injury. REM sleep is deep sleep that is necessary for proper rest. Patients who suffered from brain injuries in the past typically spend time awake after having gone to sleep. They also have less efficient rest periods and spend more time in bed without slumber than others. Brain injuries could cause an improper production of melatonin, a hormone that is required or proper sleep.