Strategies For Better Sleep When Recovering From A Concussion
Concussions can be accompanied by a range of symptoms for the concussed person.
Common symptoms include:
- Pressure in head
- Neck pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Changes in vision – double vision, blurry vision, spots, squiggly lines, sparkles
- Balance problems
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Feeling slowed down
- Feeling like “in a foggy” or mentally foggy
- “Don’t feel right”
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty remembering
- Fatigue or low energy
- More emotional
- Nervous or anxious
- Numbness or tingling
- Changes or difficulties with sleep
Changes in sleep are reported quite frequently in the patients I treat and manage for concussions. Patients report sleeping more than normal, sleepling less than normal, difficulty falling asleep, and/or waking more than normal during the night. Good, quality, restorative sleep is incredibly important to best recovery from a concussion. When sleep is disrupted due to a concussion, a viscious cycle of poor sleep and slower symptom improvement can result.
Strategies for best sleep are discussed with every concussed patient I treat. These strategies come from resources ranging from concussion specialists, sleep specialists, functional and integrative medicine specialists. Following these guidelines, particularly in the initial stages of injury, while symptoms are present, and when sleep is affected can significantly help provide better sleep for recovery.
- Allow yourself to sleep a lot. Get a minimum of 8, but ideally closer to 10, hours of sleep each night.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day regardless of when you fall asleep. This helps your brain and body establish a pattern it can get use to.
- Avoid napping during the day, especially within 8 hours of your normal bedtime. Early in the recovery from concussion, we may advise you to sleep as much as you need to during the day while maintaining a regular bedtime. After the first couple days, we recommend avoiding napping.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. This can include a shower or bath, listening to soft music, light reading, or practicing relaxation exercises.
- Keep lights low 1-2 hours before bed. Amber light bulbs can be used in the evening to help limit blue light, which is in regular bulbs. Blue light signals the body to stay awake.
- Avoid the use of screens (e.g. phone, tablets, computers, TVs) 1-2 hours before bed. If using a tablet or Kindle, set the screen to night mode, which will change the colors of lighting.
- Avoid large meals around bedtime. Digestion can interfere with sleep. A light snack 1-2 hours before sleep is alright.
- Use physical activity to your advantage. Regular physical activity can improve sleep if done earlier in the day. Avoid strenuous activity or exercises 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Reduce light as much as possible while you sleep. Dark helps communicate to your body that it’s time for sleeping. Even a small amount of light can stimulate your body to wake.
- Reduce background noise or use a white noise machine if background noises are not preventable.
- The ideal temperature for sleeping is 65-70*F.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- Supplements such as melatonin or medications such as dephenhydraimin (e.g. Benadryl and Tylenol PM) help curb some insomnia, but don’t produce the same level of restorative sleep that natural sleep does.
- Hydrate frequently throughout the day. Dehydration can affect your ability to fall asleep. Think about drinking 6-8 ounces of water every 1-1.5 hours.
- Keep sugar intake low throughout the day. Sugar can cause restlessness at night.
- Try minimizing the intake of gluten, dairy, and any other foods you may be sensitive to. Food sensitivities or intolerances contribute to poor sleep quality.
- Get 10-15 minutes of natural daylight each day. Natural daylight helps your body stay synced with the day, and know when it is day vs. night.
Every concussion is different, and should have an individualized treatment plan. Working with a healthcare provider with education and experience in the evaluation and management of concussions helps significantly in creating a treatment approach specialized to a patient.
The athletic trainers and physical therapists treating concussions at OSI are committed to providing the best treatment and management for concussions with personalized recovery plans. We work very closely with physicians specialized in concussion management. We would love to assist you with recovery and healing from your concussion. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss how we may be able to help you in returning to your regular activities in life symptom-free and feeling better!