Have you ever had a concussion or a suspected concussion after a head injury? If so, you were most likely advised by a doctor or loved ones to avoid sleeping for several hours after the injury.
A concussion is often referred to by doctors as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Although it sounds severe, a TBI can range from mild to severe, and concussions fall into the mild category. This occurs when there is a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes rapid movement of the brain inside the skull. One and a half million Americans suffer from TBI’s each year.
So, why can’t you sleep after a concussion? We dug in to uncover the truth about concussion sleep after hitting your head.
How A Concussion Can Affect Sleep
The brain is an integral part of a normal sleep cycle. Any time the brain is affected, sleep can also be affected.
Even if your concussion is mild, you may notice increased feelings of tiredness at times you’re not normally tired. But then, much like when you have a strong cup of joe too late, you could experience difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. The next day, you’ll wonder if your feelings of fatigue are from lack of sleep or from the concussion. The answer is likely both. Cognitive impairment has been shown to negatively affect sleep in 70% of people.
The good news is that your concussion will heal and your sleep should return to normal within a few weeks.
When Can You Sleep With A Concussion?
If you have experienced head trauma, you should seek medical care, even if it is just a brief check-up. A medical professional will assess the severity of your concussion and make recommendations on how to handle your sleep. Sleep is an essential part of healing, but it is important to know what is safe.
Healthline shares that medical advice typically encourages getting rest after a concussion as long as you can carry on a conversation, walk without difficulty and your pupils are not dilated. So, best-case scenario, you don’t have to avoid sleep at all. However, if you do not fit all of those criteria, your physician may advise you to avoid sleep for a while or sleep only when someone can monitor you.
One of the biggest misconceptions about concussion sleep is that sleep will cause negative effects. Sleep itself isn’t what causes issues after a concussion.Instead, the biggest issue with sleeping after a concussion is that you cannot be monitored in the same way you would if you were awake. If you’re awake and begin to have difficulty talking, walking or your pupils become dilated, it will be apparent to you and those monitoring you. But if you’re sleeping, these red flags will be nearly impossible to notice. In this case, it is important to have someone monitor you who can wake you at regular times throughout your sleep to ensure the condition hasn’t worsened.
Recovering From A Concussion
Even if you didn’t think to ask these questions during your initial exam, don’t hesitate to contact your physician to ask for advice in recovering from a concussion. Here are some general tips you can follow to help in your recovery.
Take A Break For A Few Days
Give your brain some rest for a few days. If you’ve got a test or a work project due during this time, consider providing a doctor’s note to request an extension. You may find it difficult to concentrate after even a mild concussion. We consider this a sign that your brain needs to take a break to heal.
If it isn’t possible to avoid these things, take frequent breaks.
Give your body a break, too. Anything that causes your symptoms to worsen should be avoided. Light activity, like walking, is fine as long as it doesn’t cause an increase your symptoms. It isn’t the time to push yourself.
Until you’ve had a chance to heal, avoid driving. Concussions can lead to slower reaction time, blurred vision and other things that may negatively impact driving and put yourself and others at risk. If your concussion is mild, you will heal quickly and return to your normal activities in no time.
Avoid Stimulating Electronics
While research does not show any negative effects of using electronics after a concussion, it may be wise to limit screen time. Screen brightness, font size and overstimulating the brain may cause a worsening of symptoms. So, we’re not saying go on a full electronics ban, but do consider limited use while you’re healing.
Avoid Specific Medications
This is another reason why it’s important to see a doctor after a possible concussion. If you’ve had a head injury, there is a good chance you’ll have a headache, migraine or some other aches and pains that may result in you taking over-the-counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or other NSAIDs. The problem with this is, these medications can thin your blood and increase your risk of a brain bleed if you have a concussion.
Speak with your doctor about what medications are safe for you to take.
Final Thoughts On Sleeping With A Concussion
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy life and healing from injury. Sleep, by itself, is not the cause of negative effects from a concussion. However, while sleeping, your condition could worsen, making it challenging to identify that medical intervention is necessary.
If you’ve had a recent head injury and suspect a concussion, we recommend that you see a doctor promptly to assess its severity. A health professional will help you approach sleeping while you heal, as well as what medications are safe to take in the process.