According to the National Institutes of Health, a growing concern in the study of traumatic brain injuries is sleep disorders, as patients have long reported a variety of difficulties. Among the sleep disorders that are being increasingly associated with TBI are insomnia, hypersomnia, narcolepsy, fatigue, delayed sleep phase, and alteration of sleep-wake schedule, among others. Because these types of sleep disorders can be so detrimental to a patient’s quality of life, diagnosing and treating them have become a much greater priority.
President and CEO of Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp., Dr. Seth Lederman believes that his company may be on the verge of a breakthrough in the development of a new drug treatment for TBI patients battling sleep disorders. The drug, which has the key ingredient cyclobenzaprine, was initially used in clinical trials for treating fibromyalgia, which is a disease accompanied by serious pain throughout the body. One of the key symptoms of FM is sleep disorder.
But according to News Medical, Dr. Lederman believes that symptom might be the aspect that makes cyclobenzaprine the first major breakthrough in ending these life-threatening disorders.
“Many people with FM, PTSD and TBI desperately try to dampen their pain and to get sleep by taking opiate painkillers and prescription sleep drugs”, says Dr. Lederman, “but those drugs don’t really help. The reason is that the patients’ pain comes from their brains, not their bodies,” he explained.
“Scientists believe that the brain uses the same areas to experience pain as it uses to re-experience painful memories. That potentially explains why the traumatic memories of PTSD patients feel like real pain. And in FM, those same pain centers may also be activated. That would explain why FM patients also experience chronic pain—and why normal painkillers don’t work for them either.”
Sleep disorders have been reported vastly among war veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, but they’ve also come to light with the recent suicides or former NFL players Junior Seau and O.J. Murdock. Seau had reportedly suffered many concussions during his NFL career, while Murdock was only known to have experienced one head injury. However, Murdock’s family admitted that it may have been significant. The families of both former players have since allowed doctors to study brain tissue samples from Seau and Murdock.
Those doctors hope to also unlock some of the mysteries of brain injuries and sleep disorders through their research.