Post Concussive Insomnia and Should We Sleep In Separate Beds?

This week has been one for the record books for sure, and it included discussing Post Concussive Insomnia, an important topic if you, like me, have experienced a concussion.

The week started with a trip to see Dr. Daniel Amen, founder of Amen Clinics. Dr. Amen has been a pioneer in Psychiatry for several decades and I had the privilege of hanging out with him for an entire day.

Dr. Michael Breus And Dr. Daniel Amen

Dr. Amen’s methods of assessment are quite unique. He believes that blood flow in the brain is an important way to assess brain function. His theory is that mental illness, is brain illness and that with proper treatment of the affected areas of the brain people can get better.

Dr. Amen showed me brain scans of thousands of people and it was fascinating to be able to see the differences in blood flow in the brain connected to their diagnosis. We looked at brains with Alzheimer’s, addiction, ADD, and concussion. He also explained a recent publication which he was the investigator where they compiled over 10,000 brain scans, the largest study in history!

Because I’m always curious and an investigator myself, I did a scan too. Based on a prior head injury I sustained many years ago Dr. Amen could tell me exactly where the damage was and what to do about it. I’m going to be participating in neurofeedback, and many sessions in a hyperbaric chamber to see if I can improve the affected areas! Stay tuned, I will be reporting to you on my progress. I think Dr. Amen’s work is pioneering and very interesting. You can learn more on his website if you are interested.

One question that came up while we were discussing sleep was:

What are some of the sleep related symptoms from concussion and what can a person do about it?

There are so many types of concussion, and many of the symptoms are different depending upon where the head was impacted, how hard, what treatment, if any, was given afterward, etc.

However, there is a Sleep Disorder called Post-Concussive Insomnia. I personally experienced this after my concussion for about 6 months. Even The Sleep Doctor, has had some insomnia. This of course is not to be confused with my occasional bad night of sleep due to stress, caring for kids, travel, etc. The symptoms are exactly what you might imagine, I was just up and couldn’t sleep. I could be walking around at 3:30am wide awake and did not feel much sleepiness during the day. I was getting about 3-4 hours of sleep, maybe 3-4 nights per week, during that time.

The key to navigating the situation successfully was not doing anything else that might make my situation worse. Here’s what I did:

  • No napping and sticking to a strict schedule of waking up at 6:30am. Bedtime was somewhat variable during to the insomnia period, but I was in bed by 12am, resting and relaxing.
  • No caffeine- I did not want to add any extra stimulants.
  • No alcohol before bed.
  • Blue Light Blocking Glasses at night, and meditation before bed.

I know this sounds a little simplistic, but it was successful for me. In the past I have had cases where the person needed a sedative to help them to break the cycle of insomnia, as prescribed by their doctor, which can be helpful for a limited time.

After my dinner with Dr. Amen,  I was invited to a dinner where the guest of honor was none other than Esther Parel. Ester is a world renowned Belgian Psychotherapist and couple’s therapist.

Interesting, Ester now also helps a tremendous number of entrepreneurs with their business and personal relationships. It was an amazing Indian feast. While Ester is not of Indian descent, she loves the food as do I! We had a great conversation.

One of the questions I was asked was:

If couples sleep in separate bedrooms is that better or worse for the relationship?

That question comes up a lot more than you might imagine. Fully 25% of couples sleep in separate bedrooms. Why? It’s what I call Sleep Compatibility. Here are just a few reasons some couples “disagree” on sleeping arrangements and choose to sleep apart:

  • Mattress firmness
  • Temperature
  • Noise (TV and snoring)
  • Timing (going to bed at different times)
  • Clothing (naked vs PJs)
  • Alarm (one person gets up earlier than the other)

The list goes on and on.

What is a disrupted sleeper to do? I have written several blogs to address this issue including: Are you headed for a sleep divorce?

It is important to stop and think about this idea by asking this question:

Is it really so bad to sleep in another room, if it is the only way to get good quality rest?

I say, NO, it’s not a bad idea, but you need to make up for anything that you may lose by sleeping apart.

Here’s my recommendation:

Step #1: Try a weekday vs weekend schedule. Sleep apart during the week and together on the weekend.

Step #2: Don’t forget about intimacy, this can help keep you connected in the relationship.

Step #3: Be sure to spend time together before bed. Don’t lose valuable connection time with your partner.

Step #4: Check in with your partner, before you make the move. You may be surprised how they are willing to compromise to help you sleep well.

Whew, and that was only Monday! Tuesday I gave a talk for a group of dear friends on Sleep Hacking. What it is, how to do it, and when it can be dangerous. Several of the questions I got during my lecture were areas I had covered in my blogs but continue to be of interest to many people:

I had a very special treat this week, my son and I were able to go on a private tour of Jay Leno’s Garage! A few months back, I was on the today show and Jay was on as well. He could not have been a nicer guy. Once I told him about my son’s love of cars, he invited us to visit his garage.

It was nothing short of amazing! One of the best parts was that Jay was there and my son got to meet him!

The good news is that Jay has no sleep issues so all we talked about was cars!

The rest of the week was filled with reading new articles, reading sleep studies, and continuing to enjoy the summer with my family.  I’ve got a lot lined up to talk to you about next week.

One last note if you have not seen it already, I have a new blog post that you may find of interest:
What sleep is like at every age: 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Here are a few interesting articles that included my advice this week that I think you’ll enjoy.

Pack these 8 Things In Your Carry-On Bag For The Best Plane Sleep –

I Tried Working Out At Lunch To Combat My 3pm Slump –

Summer Sleep Guide With The Sleep Doctor – KTLA 5

That’s it for this week, I have a lot more interesting things to share in the coming week, check back soon!

Sweet Dreams,
Dr. Breus

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