Many people feel tired or fatigued after a concussion. Sometimes they are physically tired, and sometimes mentally tired. Fifty per cent of people with a concussion have insomnia (not enough sleep) or hypersomnia (sleep too much).To help reduce fatigue after a concussion, pace your activities and ensure that you have good sleep habits.
Medication and sleep
There are many medications used to treat insomnia (the inability to sleep). Most are only effective for a short term. On-going use of sleeping pills may lead to dependency. Speak with your family doctor about what is right for you.
Good sleep habits
Get regular sleep. One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This regular rhythm will make you feel better and give your body a good routine.
Sleep when sleepy. Only try to sleep when you actually feel tired or sleepy, rather than spending too much time lying awake in bed.
Get up and try again. If you haven’t been able to get to sleep after about 20 minutes or more get up. Do something calming until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again. Try sitting quietly on the couch with the lights off. Bright lights tell your brain it’s time to wake up. Read something disinteresting like the phone book. Avoid doing anything too stimulating or interesting.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Avoid consuming any caffeine or alcohol and using nicotine for at least four to six hours before going to bed. These substances act as stimulants and may interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
Coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, some medications, nicotine, wine, beer, spirits, and cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
Bed is for sleeping. Try not to use your bed for anything other than sleeping and intimacy, so that your body comes to associate bed with sleep. If you watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, pay bills and other things while in bed, your body may not learn the connection.
No naps. Avoid taking naps during the day, to make sure you are tired at bedtime. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is for less than an hour and before 3 pm.
Sleep rituals. Develop rituals to remind your body it’s time to sleep. Some people find it useful to do relaxing stretches or breathing exercises for 15 minutes before bed each night. You can also sit calmly with a cup of caffeine-free tea.
Bath time. Research shows sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature. Having a hot bath one to two hours before bedtime can raise your body temperature and cause you to feel sleepy as it drops again.
Don’t watch the clock. Many people who struggle with sleep frequently check the clock during the night. This can encourage wakefulness and may reinforce negative thoughts such as, “Oh no, look how late it is, I’ll never get to sleep” or “It’s so early, I have only slept for five hours, this is terrible.”
Use a sleep diary. Writing your sleep patterns down is a good way to keep track and see how you are progressing. Because you have to watch the clock to track your sleep, limit using a diary for two weeks and then perhaps again two months later.
Exercise. Regular exercise can help promote sleep. Avoid strenuous exercise four hours before bedtime. Morning walks are a great way to start the day feeling refreshed.
Eat right. A healthy, balanced diet will help you sleep well. Some people find an empty stomach at bedtime distracting. Having a light snack before bed can lessen the likelihood of interrupted sleep. Some people find a warm glass of milk, which contains tryptophan acts as a natural sleep inducer.
The right space. Your bed and bedroom should be quiet and comfortable. A cooler room with blankets to stay warm is best. Having curtains or an eye mask to block out early morning light and earplugs may help if there is noise outside your room.
Keep a daytime routine. Even if you have a bad night sleep and are tired, it’s important to try to keep your daytime activities the same as much as possible. On these days, don’t avoid activities because you feel tired as this may reinforce the insomnia.
Reference: This content was adapted from guidelines created by the Centre for Clinical Interventions, www.cci.health.wa.gov.au.
Do you feel tired all the time?
Fatigue (feeling tired) is common after a concussion. Fatigue can be caused by many things such as changes in your sleep pattern, lack of sleep, medications, physical well-being and illness. But did you know fatigue can also be caused by hunger, stress, lack of confidence or low motivation to get better?
Your brain will go through energy much quicker than it did before your injury. Fatigue can make your other symptoms worse.
Brain and mental fatigue after a concussion
Your brain is responsible for coordinating everything in your body. It doesn’t stop thinking, even when you are sleeping. Sleep is important to help your brain recharge. What causes your brain to be tired?
- Talking on the phone in a crowded environment or while others are talking
- Doing anything in a place where there are lots of sights and sounds
- Driving – even as a passenger
- Watching TV, using the computer or tablet
- Physical activity
What can help? Pacing and planning your activity. Read more on pacing and planning.
Parkwood Institute’s Driver Assessment Rehabilitation Program can help you get back to driving with individual training and support, learn more.