Sleep is essential to your child’s overall well-being. It is especially important if your child has a concussion. Many children who have suffered a concussion will have sleep problems, including insomnia (difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep), fatigue and daytime sleepiness. In fact, after headaches, sleep problems are the most common complaint after a concussion.
You may also find that your child is sleeping a great deal in the first few days and weeks following a concussion. This is because the brain and body need rest after a concussion.
Tips for better sleep after a concussion
The following recommendations are intended to help your child sleep once she is past the first few days or weeks after a concussion. If your child’s healthcare provider has recommended cognitive rest immediately after injury, please discuss how you should manage her sleep during that time. Discuss the following tips with your child:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Try going to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. On weekends, don’t go to bed more than one hour later than your usual bedtime on school nights. Although you do not need to get up as early on weekends as on school days, be sure to get up by 9 or 9:30 so you don't shift your sleep schedule too much.
- Get enough sleep at night. School-aged children (6-12 years) need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep per night. Adolescents (13-18 years) require between 9 and 9.5 hours of sleep per night. Be sure that you are getting the amount of sleep you need at night.
- Have a consistent bedtime routine to help you relax each night before bed. This can include such things as taking a bath or shower before bedtime followed by a few minutes of reading.
- Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you are not sleepy at bedtime, you can read a book, listen to soft music or do something else that is relaxing. Find something relaxing, but not stimulating, to take your mind off worries about sleep. This will relax your body and distract your mind.
- If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of bed. Find something else to do that will help you relax. Don’t text your friends, check email or play video games. If you feel you want to do these things, do them in another room. Once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.
- Avoid taking naps if you can. If you must take a nap, try to keep it short (less than one hour). Try not to take a nap after 3 p.m. so that you can fall asleep at bedtime.
- Keep a regular schedule. Regular times for meals, medications, chores and other activities help keep your inner body clock running smoothly.
- Avoid caffeine. Most children and teens should avoid all caffeine. If that’s not possible, make sure you don’t have any caffeine after lunchtime, as it may cause you to have problems sleeping that night.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool. Make your bedroom a sleep haven by keeping it quiet and dark. Cooler is also better for sleep.
- Keep all electronics out of the bedroom. Your bedroom should be for sleeping only. Studies find that electronics, including televisions, cell phones, computers and video games, all interfere with sleep.