A concussion is an injury to the brain that adversely affects the normal functioning of the brain temporarily. People with a concussion injury have several questions in mind, such as “Can you go to sleep with a concussion? How long should you sleep? What should you do if you cannot sleep?” etc.
For long, people believed that allowing a person to sleep after a concussion can make him lose consciousness or slip into a coma. The idea behind not letting a person to sleep is not because of the concussion but from more potentially deadly and serious concerns like bleeding.
The misunderstanding of the concept of “lucid interval”, the period when someone wakes up from unconsciousness and seems fine but the brain has started bleeding in the meantime.
There have been several debates about what should be done after a concussion injury. But several research studies and clinical tests have completed changed the way people treat concussion injuries today.
The Traditional Theory of Concussion Management
The age-old recommendation of concussion management was to wake up the injured person every hour or two throughout the night. The reason behind such activity was to understand if there is any internal bleeding in the brain. If the person is already sleeping you would not know if he requires some serious medical attention.
The traditional concept was to wake him after frequent intervals to check if he was showing any signs of deterioration. If you had any problem waking him up easily or started to have slurry speech or any other signs of deterioration it would be better to seek immediate medical attention.
The New Age Theory of Concussion Management
But the old way of concussion management has taken a complete about-turn. Healthcare experts no longer recommend the practice of waking the person up as it is of no benefit. In fact, they advise the person to take rest immediately following the injury for about the next 24 to 48 hours.
According to Neuropsychologist and Concussion Expert Scott Burkhart when you sleep, the glucose levels in the body get restored which is later used as a source of energy.
This is mainly because these concerning injuries mainly show up within the initial 3 to 6 hours post the concussion. Therefore, monitoring the condition for the initial few hours allows you to take necessary precautionary measures to prevent the condition from getting worse.
What are the different types of concussions?
Concussions can be segregated into the following categories –
- Grade-1 (Mild): For this type of concussion the symptoms last for no less than 15 minutes. The person does not experience loss of consciousness.
- Grade-2 (Moderate): Although there is no loss of consciousness at this stage, the symptoms may last for more than 15 minutes.
- Grade-3 (Severe): At this stage, the person loses consciousness but only for a few seconds.
These types of concussions are determined based on factors such as amnesia, loss of consciousness, and loss of equilibrium.
What impact does a concussion have on your sleep?
Getting affected by a concussion might make you feel tired requiring you to take brief naps throughout the day. However, you may experience some adverse effects on your sleep patterns including –
- Trouble staying asleep for long hours
- Trouble falling asleep
- Feeling of fatigue throughout the day
Gradually, with the healing of your injury, these sleep issues start to fade out. However, in some cases, it can take up to a few weeks to heal. If you are still experiencing sleep issues after a couple of weeks without any improvement consult a healthcare practitioner.
How to improve your sleep after a concussion?
After a concussion, following these simple self-care techniques can help you improve your sleep –
Engage in light activity
You might find walking to be a soothing activity as it does not make your symptoms worse but unless advised by your physician does not indulge in any activity that increases your heart rate.
Relax your mind before going to bed with quiet activities like listening to music or reading a book. Stay away from electronic gadgets or a bright light at least an hour before sleep.
Let the brain rest
Experts say that the brain stays active even when you are fast asleep. So, try to minimize the activity of the brain as much as possible by staying away from work that requires concentration and focus.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Make sure that you are getting the desired level of sleep every day as recommended by the physician. Try to avoid naps, especially after noon to ensure a sound and deep sleep at night.
Avoid taking certain medications
If you are experiencing marked concussion symptoms consult a healthcare provider before taking over-the-counter medications. Medicines like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin may increase the chances of your brain bleeding in case of a severe concussion.
If you are taking pain relievers make sure that you recover completely before resuming your usual daily activities.
When is it safe to sleep?
There is a lot of debate on whether you should get some sleep after mild head trauma. Present medical experts advice getting some rest and sleep as long as
- You are able to carry on a conversation
- Your pupils do not appear dilated
- You can walk without any difficulty.
In fact, they consider it as the most essential part of the healing process, especially during the initial three to four days.
But if you are not sure of your health condition, consult a healthcare expert for assistance. Even without any notable symptoms of a severe concussion, it is better to take necessary precautionary measures. Children should visit the doctor within 48 hours of getting any mild bump or head injury.
For severe symptoms of concussion, your physician might recommend someone to wake you up periodically for a few times initially.
Can sleeping with a concussion kill you?
Among the several myths surrounding a concussion injury, the scariest one is the misbelief that sleeping with a concussion can kill you. This is actually not the case. The underlying meaning of such a statement is that sleeping with a concussion may have long-term consequences if not treated with caution.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that around 50,000 deaths have been recorded in 2010 in the US from concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
The first thing to do is to be vigilant of the identifying symptoms following a head injury. Some of the warning signs of a severe head injury include –
- Vomiting multiple times
- Head pain that is increasing with time
- Slurred speech
- A dizzy and clumsy feeling
- Seizures or loss of consciousness for about a minute.
- Mood swings, confusions, and disorientation
- Trouble in recognizing your close ones.
However, if the person is able to carry on a conversation without any noticeable symptoms it is not required to keep him awake all night. But this is not so with children. Physicians recommend waking up children who have suffered a concussion injury at least twice during the night to identify any changes.
While a mild concussion is not likely to have any adverse effect on your body, a severe or repeated concussion can turn out to be fatal if proper safety measures are not taken at the right time.