Sleep after a concussion is vital to brain healing and symptom management. There are many misconceptions about sleep after a concussion; our goal is to help parents understand what to do if you suspect your child has a concussion.
First, SportsSafe recommends that if a concussion is suspected, it is important for that child/teen to be evaluated by a medical provider trained in concussions. At school the first person to help evaluate your child may be an athletic trainer or school nurse. Outside of school, it is helpful to call your pediatrician’s office for medical advice after a head injury. Another resource is After Hours Kids (AHK). AHK is also open every night of the week from 630-1030pm and can evaluate a potential concussive injury and help determine the next steps (www.afterhourskids.com). Some reasons when it’s important to go straight to the ER would be if there are any red flag signs (vomiting over and over, loss of consciousness >1 minute, one sided symptoms or severe worsening of symptoms).
Once your child/teen has a diagnosis of a concussion, ask the medical provider if it is safe for him/her to sleep uninterrupted at night. Many people have heard that it is not safe to go to sleep after a concussion and this is partially true. As long as your child has been acting normally for several hours (though they will likely not feel well and will be much more tired), and their medical provider gives consent, then the injured child/teen does not need to be woken up throughout the night.
SportsSafe recommends that athlete’s rest when they feel tired for the first few days after a concussion (as long as naps during the day do not prevent sleep at night). After a few days though, it is important to maintain as normal a routine as possible. This means going to bed and waking up about the same time every day (though they may need more sleep than normal). Staying in a routine, especially with sleep, is very beneficial to the healing process.
Often students report difficulty falling or staying asleep a week or so after their injury. This is very common and often has to do with the fact they aren’t feeling well, they are not as active as normal, and may not be in their normal routine. If this happens, talk with your provider, who may recommend supplements or medications to help keep the sleep cycle normal. Good sleep hygiene is imperative during this time as well. These things include, staying off of electronics 30 min-1 hr before bed, sleeping in a cool, dark room, and some people may benefit from listening white noise or a fan. A consistent bedtime routine is important as well. Sleep is an important part of concussion recovery. If your child is having difficulty with sleep after a concussion it is important to talk to your concussion provider.