Most of us know that a good night’s sleep is important to good health. It’s critical to maintaining brain cognition, concentration, and productivity. Sleep also improves immune function, staves off serious conditions like diabetes and stroke, and maintains our ability to deal with the challenges of everyday life. A new study has also found that many of us could be coping with concussion-like symptoms such as confusion, low energy, and memory loss due to a lack of sleep and compounded stress.
Participants Included Cadets From U.S. Military Academies & College Athletes
The research published in the January issue of Journal Sports Medicine was conducted by the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium, a founding alliance between the NCAA and U.S. Department of Defense. Participants included cadets within U.S. military service academies – who undergo rigorous training and are required to participate in athletics – and students who competed in NCAA sports at 26 U.S. colleges.
Researchers found between 11% and 17% of healthy college or military academy athletes with no history of recent concussion were reporting multiple symptoms – such as memory loss, low energy, and dizziness – that met the criteria for post-concussion syndrome (also known as PCS). The study found lack of sleep, pre-existing mental health conditions, and stress were the most common predictors for these concussion-like symptoms. Furthermore, between 50% and 75% of the athletes surveyed had at least one concussion symptom, with the most common being fatigue, low energy, or drowsiness.
Women who participated in the study reported more symptoms than men: among cadets, 17.8% of men and 27.6% of women experienced concussion-like symptoms, and among NCAA athletes, 11.4% of men and 20% of women. The study concluded that a history of depression or ADHD were key contributing factors for NCAA athletes who experienced PCS-like symptoms.
"The numbers were high, and were consistent with previous research in this area, but it is quite shocking," said lead researcher Jaclyn Caccese, assistant professor at The Ohio State University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. "These are elite athletes who are physically fit, and they are experiencing that many symptoms commonly reported following concussion. So looking across the general population, they'd probably experience even more."
What Are Typical Symptoms?
A concussion can affect your memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, energy level, balance, and muscle coordination. Individuals who have had a recent concussion or are experiencing PCS-like conditions may act confused or dazed. Other symptoms can include:
Nausea or vomiting
Sensitivity to light
Loss of smell or taste
Fatigue and drowsiness
A key takeaway related to those who have not had a recent concussion may be experiencing identical symptoms due to lack of sleep and/or the burden of stress being carried.
What Do Experts Recommend?
The research was originally designed to gather additional information regarding the effects and recovery of concussion for student-athletes at colleges and military service academies. Concussions are a known problem in sports, particularly contact sports such as football.
Scientists who performed the research stated the results have implications for how we treat concussions in college athletes as well as how the general population manages sleep and stress. For example, they suggest athletes recovering from concussions be assessed and treated on a highly individualized basis. In addition, knowing athletes' medical history and baseline symptoms can help clinicians predict which pre-existing factors contribute to concussion recovery times, and ultimately improve treatment and recovery.
For those of us who’re not college athletes, self-awareness and recognizing when our sleep cycle is being disrupted or how stress has been negatively impacting our daily lives is essential. Place greater emphasis on addressing the issues as they arise or develop healthier mechanisms for coping with the guidance of a mental health therapist. Difficulty sleeping or stress related to underlying mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression should always be diagnosed by a qualified and licensed behavioral health specialist.
Consider Telebehavioral Health
Telemynd offers patients the ability to connect with providers from the safety and convenience of their homes. If you’re someone seeking mental health services, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today! If you’re a behavioral health provider wanting to join our network, apply online.
Journal Sports Medicine, 01.11.21: Factors Associated with Symptom Reporting in U.S. Service Academy Cadets and NCAA Student-Athletes without Concussion: Findings from the CARE Consortium
Concussion Legacy Foundation: What is Post-Concussion Syndrome