Jan 2, 2018, 10:18:59 AM CST Feb 22, 2023, 4:43:47 PM CST

Is it safe to sleep after a concussion?

The specialists at Children's Health discuss sleeping after a concussion and why rest is imperative to sports concussion recovery.

Sleeping teenage girl Sleeping teenage girl

If you suspect your child is suffering from a sports concussion, the most important thing you can do is to get him or her evaluated by a medical professional soon after the injury. Once your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, it is important to let him or her sleep, as rest encourages healing of the brain.

Why is rest important for concussion recovery?

The key in the first 24 hours after diagnosis is monitoring for abnormal symptoms, such as complete disorientation or significant changes in speech. If you’re not seeing any signs of severe symptoms, then the next step in concussion recovery is symptom management – this is where rest comes in.

“Recovery from a concussion often takes time,” says Troy M. Smurawa, M.D., Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at Children’s Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. “During that period, the brain really needs to have the opportunity to reestablish its health. If an athlete sustains a concussion, it is important they rest for the first two to three days.”

What happens if you go to sleep with a concussion?

Sleeping, in fact, encourages healing of the brain.

“When you sleep, you restore glucose and your body uses that glucose for energy,” explains Scott Burkhart, Psy.D., Neuropsychologist and Concussion Expert at Children’s Health Andrews Institute. “The brain is actually using glucose from sleep from a healing standpoint. Sleep is critical and is one of the best things you can give an athlete.”

A common myth is that you should wake up your child every hour after a concussion, but this will only leave both you and your child tired. In fact, waking up your child throughout the night could actually be detrimental to recovery.

“They’re likely going to be more tired and fatigued than they typically are,” says Christine Ellis, APRN, CPNP-PC at Children’s Health Andrews Institute. “If they want to go to bed, then let them go to sleep. There’s no reason to wake them up from sleep every hour or two like they used to say. If, for some reason, you feel like they need to be woken up from sleep because there is something else going on, then an ER doctor would tell you that.”

If you are worried about your child falling asleep after a head injury, it is best to have him or her checked out by your pediatrician or an ER physician as soon as possible. A medical professional can make sure everything is okay and can give sleep a green light.

Learn more

The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine aims at reducing the number of children being sidelined from injury. Learn more about our programs and services.

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