Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion: your guide to recovery

Sleep issues after concussion

A concussion can change how well you sleep.

You might find that it is hard to get a good night’s sleep. You might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleeping for too long during the day might be a problem.

Other factors such as pain, worrying, medications, mood or other medical conditions can also affect sleep.

It is important to try and get a good night’s sleep after a concussion. Sleep helps the brain recover and helps you feel well when you wake up. A good routine for sleep, or what is called Sleep Hygiene, can be very helpful.

Tips for good sleep hygiene

Regular Sleep Routine

  • Keep the same bedtime schedule, even on the weekends. Make sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Set an alarm if you need to.
  • If you don’t fall asleep in 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy. Lying in bed and worrying about not sleeping will usually only make you feel more anxious, and make it harder to fall asleep.
  • In the first few days after a concussion, physical rest is important. After the first few days after your concussion, try not to nap during the day. Napping will make it harder to sleep at night. If you are tired, try to stay up, and go to bed earlier if you need to.
  • If you need to nap then take only one nap a day. Try to keep naps short (about 20-30 minutes). Make sure you take a nap before 3 p.m. otherwise you may have trouble falling asleep at night.
  • Do something relaxing before you go to bed. Sometimes a warm bath or reading a book can help you go to sleep. You can also listen to soothing music or try deep breathing exercises to relax your body.

Food, Activities, and Lifestyle

  • Do not drink caffeine or alcohol or eat heavy meals 4-6 hours before bedtime. It can make it hard to fall asleep or wake you up in the middle of the night. Eating a small bedtime snack with protein before you go to bed can help.

  • Make sure you have enough vitamins and minerals (magnesium, iron, and B vitamins) in your diet.
  • Get enough natural light during the day.
  • Try to exercise 30-60 minutes a day if you feel well enough. Do not exercise right before bedtime. Talk to your doctor or health care provider before starting to exercise.

Sleep Environment

  • Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable.

  • If sounds keep you awake, try wearing ear plugs. A white noise machine or fan can also help. Neutral or natural sounds can be helpful to block out distracting sounds.

  • Make sure you keep electronics out of the bedroom. Watching TV and using a cell phone or laptop computer can make it hard to fall asleep, because the lights make the brain work harder. Also you don’t want to be woken up by calls, texts or other notifications when you are trying to sleep.

Talk to your doctor or health care provider if your sleep problems or feelings of tiredness do not get better. Do not drive or use machinery if you feel sleepy during the day.