Is It Safe to Sleep After a Concussion?

It’s common advice that you should not go to sleep if you have had a concussion. You may also have heard that you should wake up someone with a concussion every hour to check on them. But are those things true, or is it OK to sleep with a concussion?

Doctors say not allowing someone to fall asleep after a concussion and needing to wake someone hourly after one are myths. However, surveys have shown that many people still believe you should stay awake for 24 hours after hitting your head. In reality, sleep may be the best remedy.

man napping with arm over his face

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What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). When you take a blow to the head—from a fall, a hit, or being whipped back and forth in a car accident—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.


As far as TBI goes, 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.

Common symptoms of a concussion are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Noise or light sensitivity
  • Sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Mental fog
  • Feeling “off” or “not right”
  • Attention or memory problems

When Can You Sleep After a Concussion?

The concern about sleeping after you get 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 heading to bed for the night. That way, you’ll know for certain whether you have a concussion or if it could be something more serious.

Some doctors say you can let a potentially concussed person fall sleep 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.

Others say you should get them checked out before letting them sleep, and some also recommend checking in a few times overnight to see if they’re breathing regularly, which doesn’t require waking them up.

Sleep-Related Symptoms

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, after headaches, sleep problems are the most commonly reported symptoms of a concussion.

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 doctor about it.

When to See a Doctor

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 see if you can get an appointment with your regular doctor 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

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t you sleep after 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.

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 doctor. It is important to catch signs of serious brain damage quickly, and that can't happen while you're asleep.

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.

Is difficulty sleeping a symptom of a concussion?

Yes, it can be hard to sleep after a concussion. It's the second most frequently reported side effect, after headaches. Most of the time, it's not an immediate symptom but one that may crop up during your recovery.

Summary

Sleeping isn't dangerous when you have a concussion. You won't 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.

A Word From Verywell

Any injury to your brain should be taken seriously. While the old beliefs about the dangers of sleep after a concussion are false, 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 know for certain what’s going on and can start the proper treatment right away.

Once it's confirmed that you've had a concussion, though, it’s time to allow for plenty of sleep so the body’s natural healing process can begin.

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8 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.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up: What is a concussion? Updated February 12, 2019.

  3. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Concussion.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Concussion. Updated June 2, 2020.

  5. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Is it safe to sleep if you have a concussion? Updated March 8, 2019.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Is it safe to sleep after a concussion? Updated July 29, 2020.

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

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up: Danger signs. Updated February 12, 2019.