Is It Safe to Sleep After a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild type of traumatic brain injury typically caused by a sharp blow or bump to the head that can sometimes lead to serious complications. After a concussion, you may wonder if you should stay awake after hitting your head just to be in the clear.

The common advice is that you should wait before going to sleep with a concussion to ensure you won't fall unconscious and slip into a coma. It's a myth that you need to stay awake for 24 hours or wake someone every hour after a head blow. However, it is important to see a healthcare provider before falling asleep to make sure your injury isn't severe.

This article explains what a concussion is, including the symptoms and what it means to become sleepy. It discusses what the research says about sleeping after a concussion, how sleep is more likely to benefit rather than harm you, and when to see a healthcare provider.

Tips for Getting Rest After a Concussion

Verywell / Mayya Agapova

When Can You Sleep After a Concussion?

The concern about why you can't sleep with a concussion comes from the belief that while you are asleep, you could slip into a coma or die. Sleeping itself can’t cause those things to happen, but it’s also impossible for anyone to notice signs of serious brain damage while you’re asleep.

So, while sleeping isn’t necessarily dangerous, it’s probably best to get medical attention before you do it. That way, you’ll know for certain whether you have a concussion or if it could be something more serious.

Some healthcare providers say you can let a potentially concussed person fall asleep if they are awake and able to hold a conversation, and are not showing signs of a concussion such as dilated pupils or trouble walking.

Other providers say you should get them checked out before letting them sleep. Some also recommend checking in a few times during a sleep session to see if they’re breathing regularly, which doesn’t require waking them up.

What Happens if You Sleep With a Concussion?

Most likely, sleeping after you get a concussion will just mean you will get some rest that will help you recover. People used to believe you could slip into a coma or die if you went to sleep with a concussion, but we now know that's not true.

Concussion Symptoms and Causes

A concussion can be caused by a blow to the head—from a fall, a hit, or being whipped back and forth in a car accident. When it happens, your brain moves suddenly inside your skull, and it can actually twist or bounce around.

That kind of trauma stretches and changes neurons (types of brain cells) and can lead to disruptions in brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that make it hard for your neurons to communicate with each other.

The Dangers of Repeat Concussions

A single concussion rarely causes permanent brain damage, but a second one soon after can be disabling, even if it’s not a strong concussion.

For a traumatic brain injury, concussions are considered mild. That’s primarily because they’re rarely life-threatening. Even so, they should always be considered a serious medical event because they cause an immediate, but temporary, change in mental status or level of consciousness.

The common symptoms of a concussion are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion, memory, or attention troubles
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Noise or light sensitivity
  • Irritability or other mood changes
  • Mental fog or feeling "not right"

Sleep-Related Symptoms of Concussion

Concussions can cause some symptoms that are directly related to sleep. It’s common for someone with a concussion to feel tired or have a hard time staying awake within minutes of the injury, and symptoms may linger while they recover. 

Other symptoms may take a few days to show up or become apparent. One of those potential symptoms is a change in sleep patterns. Some people, after a concussion, will sleep a lot more than usual, and it may be hard to wake them up. Others may have a hard time falling asleep at all, or they may wake up frequently.

If you can’t rouse someone from sleep after a head injury, it could be a sign of something serious. Get immediate medical attention.

Tips for Getting Rest After a Concussion

Sleep is an important part of the healing process, so you should get plenty of rest after a concussion. However, difficulty sleeping is a symptom of concussion and, after headaches, it is the most commonly reported symptom.

If you have sleep issues that linger after the first few days of healing, you may want to try the following to get better sleep:

  • Keep a consistent schedule, even on days off.
  • Have a bedtime routine that helps you relax.
  • Set aside at least eight hours to sleep each night.
  • If you’re not sleepy at bedtime, do something relaxing.
  • Avoid naps or keep them short and early in the day so they don’t interfere with sleeping that night.
  • Avoid caffeine, especially late in the day.
  • Don’t use electronics right before bed or in the bedroom.

If your sleep problems don’t go away within a few weeks of the concussion, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about it.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

After any head injury, especially in a child or someone who’s had prior concussions, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional. If symptoms are absent or mild, you may want to go to urgent care or make an appointment with your regular healthcare provider that day.

Symptoms that are more serious warrant a trip to the emergency room.

When to Get Emergency Help

Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately after a head injury if they:

  • Can’t be awakened
  • Have one pupil that’s larger than the other
  • Have a worsening or persistent headache
  • Slur their speech
  • Have weakness, numbness, or impaired coordination
  • Vomit repeatedly
  • Have convulsions or seizures
  • Act confused or agitated
  • Lose consciousness for any amount of time
  • Behave in bizarre or unusual ways
  • Become irritable or increasingly confused
  • Feel tingly in their arms and legs
  • Have a watery discharge from the nose or ears
  • Have bloody discharge from the ears


Sleeping isn't always dangerous when you have a concussion, but any injury to your brain should be taken seriously. You won't necessarily slip into a coma or die if you go to sleep after getting a concussion.

It's safe for a concussed person to sleep if they are awake and can hold a conversation, and they don't have obvious concussion symptoms. In fact, you'll likely want to allow for plenty of sleep so the body’s natural healing process can begin.

A Word From Verywell

While the old adage that you can't sleep with a concussion isn't entirely accurate, it is true that sleeping could conceal signs of a serious brain injury. If you suspect a concussion, it’s a good idea to get medical attention so you have an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment right away.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why can’t you sleep with a concussion?

    Actually, you can sleep after a concussion. It's a mistaken belief that you have to stay awake for the first 24 hours. However, it's important to see a healthcare provider first to monitor for any severe symptoms.

  • How long should you wait to sleep after a concussion?

    There’s no set time that you should wait to sleep after a concussion. However, it's a good idea to stay awake long enough to get checked out by a healthcare provider. It is important to catch signs of serious brain damage quickly, and that can't happen while you're asleep.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: UPMC Health Beat. Debunking the myths about sleep and concussion.

  2. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Is it safe to sleep if you have a concussion?

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up: What is a concussion?

  4. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Concussion.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concussion Signs and Symptoms.

  6. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. How to sleep with a concussion.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up: Danger signs.

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.