Should I sleep after a concussion?
After suffering a concussion, many people feel tired and hope a good night’s sleep will help them feel better.
But should you go to sleep after a concussion? Do you need to wake up in the night to make sure everything is okay?
There is no issue with sleeping after a concussion as such BUT we need to make sure there are no other serious issues present - which is made more difficult when someone is asleep.
Certainly, going straight to sleep after a concussion is not advised and if someone takes a bang to the head and struggles to stay awake, get immediate medical attention.
With respect to sleep in general after a concussion, older advice used to be to wake someone regularly (every 2-3 hours) through the night to check whether there are any new symptoms such as slurred speech, confusion etc. which would be a sign of a bleed or other serious pathology.
By waking someone regularly you can also make sure someone hasn’t become unconscious (again a sign of a more serious pathology which needs urgent care) while sleeping. Obviously, if someone is awake or is able to be woken up then they are not unconscious – but this is very difficult to detect if they are just left ‘sleeping.’
By waking someone often, if a deterioration in their condition is found then you can then get immediate help – catching the issues sooner rather than waiting until the morning when it may be too late.
However, the current thinking suggests this isn’t necessary. The reasoning behind this is that more serious and urgent pathologies, such as a bleed, usually would present themselves within the first 2-3 hours after a concussion.
So monitoring someone closely in this period, the first 2-3 hours after a blow to the head, is very important. If there are any worrying symptoms or any doubts about someone’s condition, then getting immediate medical attention is crucial and should be done immediately.
But if everything is okay during this period, then normal sleep is okay.
HOWEVER, even though the research suggests normal sleep is okay, there are always some situations which do not fit the general guidelines. Thankfully these are rare, but equally they can happen. In these cases, when speed is of the essence, it is better to find out something is wrong sooner in the night rather than waiting until morning.
SO, waking yourself or your child/ spouse etc. a couple of times through the night is not a bad thing to do to make sure they are okay. You may be tired the next day, but other than that, it will do them no harm and will give you some peace of mind as well.
If you or someone you know has any issues with concussion – needs treatment or advice – then get in touch with the Dizziness, Balance & Concussion Centre to see how we can help.