TBI: Sleep and why we need more than we did before our injury
By John Hatten, TBI Coach & Counselor, Survivor of TBI
Another area to focus on is sleep. We need more sleep than others and more than we needed before our injury. We need more sleep because of the mental effort that is required to focus on all those things we want to remember; all the daily activities that were so automatic now take mental effort to recall. I have found that everything requires more energy and we need the sleep to recover from our day. I try my best to get a full night’s sleep every night (I try to get 8 and preferably 9 hours a night) and I notice that if I don’t, my thinking/focus is significantly lowered: I find it more difficult to focus and recall. The other reason why we need a full night’s sleep relates to our ‘reserve’. As people don’t use all their mental ‘strength’, they have a reserve, so that if they’re tired or distracted or feeling poorly, their cognitive performance isn’t affected much, if at all. But brain injury puts much more demands on our attention so that we need to be in ‘top form’. Our reserve is much smaller and reduced sleep (even if only one night) will affect our cognitive performance so that we begin to falter. So get your sleep!
We should also attend to our basic nutritional needs: if we’re not providing both the energy for our body and mind and the vitamins and other nutrients we need to be at our best. Again, our performance drops if we’re not ‘on our game’ physically. I know how hard it can be to remember to eat well: that’s why I suggest that we (me too) get into a routine of eating our meals at about the same time every day. As you will continue to hear again and again in these blogs, consistency is very important for us. I know that when I do forget to eat, it’s because I wasn’t following my routine, which for me means listening to the prompts that PEAT (more about PEAT later) gives me. I believe in making things as simple as possible, and that includes that eating my meals at the same time every day. I also eat the same meals every day: the same breakfast, the same lunch and the same dinner. I have an egg dish I came up with John’s eggs (if you ask I’ll give you the recipe): it’s so good I eat it every morning with orange juice. I also cook up about 5 pounds of chicken breasts a week, cut them up into 12 ounce pieces, put them into separate plastic containers and then microwave them one at a time for lunch (with some fruit) and dinner (with some crackers). I find this is helpful to me because I don’t have to come up with different recipes every meal. Like everything else I suggest in these blogs, it’s up to you: I’m only telling you what’s worked for me (and others with TBI I’ve talked to over all these decades).