Previously, medical experts would advise people stay awake if they had a concussion. However, medical experts now agree that it is safe for a person to sleep if they have a concussion.

Medical experts once warned that people should stay awake if they had a concussion. They based this advice on the theory that sleeping with a concussion could cause a person to fall into a coma or even die.

However, medical experts now agree that it is safe for a person to sleep if they have a concussion. As long as somebody wakes the person regularly to monitor their symptoms, there is no harm in them sleeping.

This article outlines what happens in the brain during a concussion. It also lists some possible concussion symptoms in adults and children and offers advice on what to do while recovering from one.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that typically occurs due to a bump, blow, or jolt to the head.

A concussion can also occur due to a strong force to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or rotate inside the skull.

The CDC also explain that a concussion can create chemical changes inside the brain and can even stretch and damage brain cells.

Medical experts often describe concussions as a “mild” form of brain injury due to the fact that they are usually not life threatening. However, the effects of a concussion can be very unpleasant, and they may last for weeks or even months.

In most cases, the symptoms of a concussion will present in the first 48 hours following a head injury. In some cases, however, the symptoms can be delayed.

According to the CDC, the symptoms of a concussion fall into the following four categories:

  • thinking or remembering
  • physical
  • emotional
  • sleep

The following sections will look at each of these categories in more detail, as well as some possible symptoms in children.

Thinking or remembering

A concussion can cause issues with a person’s thinking or short-term memory. Symptoms within this category may include:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • mental clouding or confusion
  • difficulty remembering new information
  • feeling slowed down


Physical symptoms of a concussion can include:

Some concussions may cause a temporary loss of consciousness. Unconsciousness that lasts for longer than 30 minutes may indicate a more serious form of brain injury.


Emotional symptoms of a concussion can include:


A concussion can affect a person’s sleep patterns or sleep quality. Sleep-related symptoms may include:

  • sleeping less than usual
  • sleeping more than usual
  • being unable to get to sleep

A person who is recovering from a concussion should aim to get a good night’s sleep and should take naps during the day as needed.

Symptoms in children

A concussion can be more difficult to notice in infants and young children. This is because they may not be able to effectively communicate how they are feeling.

If an infant or young child experiences a blow to the head, parents and caregivers should look to their behavior for possible symptoms of concussion.

Behavioral changes may include:

  • crying a lot or more than usual
  • differences in eating or sleeping habits
  • a loss of interest in people, toys, or other objects

Infants and young children who display any of the above symptoms require immediate medical attention.

A person with a suspected or confirmed concussion will require monitoring throughout their recovery.

If a person goes to sleep following a head injury, they and those around them may miss the possible signs and symptoms of a brain injury. For this reason, medical experts used to advise that people stay awake throughout a concussion.

Now, however, medical experts have access to sophisticated imaging techniques that allow them to check for any physical signs of head trauma. Modern medical equipment also allows them to monitor people more easily.

As a result, they now agree that people can safely sleep with a concussion.

Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain heal. Parents and caregivers of infants and young children who have a concussion will need to monitor them and ensure that they are getting enough rest.

Adults with a concussion need to make sure that another adult is there to keep them company and to monitor their symptoms and recovery.

While recovering from a concussion, a person should:

  • Rest as much as possible and not try to “power through” the symptoms.
  • Avoid activities that are physically or mentally demanding.
  • Avoid anything that could lead to another concussion, such as sports.
  • Avoid driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery until a medical expert says that it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid using alcohol and any unprescribed drugs, as these can slow recovery.
  • Avoid excessive use of electronic devices, such as televisions, game consoles, and cellphones.

Usually, a person will recover from a concussion within a few days to a few weeks. Sometimes, however, the symptoms can last for longer.

Post-concussion syndrome is the medical term for prolonged concussion symptoms. This condition occurs most commonly in people who have a history of multiple concussions. However, it can also occur following a single concussion.

Post-concussion syndrome can last for several months, in some cases.

The symptoms vary but may include:

  • worsened memory and concentration
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • sensitivity to light
  • tinnitus
  • neck pain
  • sleep disturbances
  • fatigue
  • irritability

A person needs medical attention if they experience a blow to the head and develop any symptoms of a concussion.

A person should also contact their doctor if they experience any prolonged or worsening symptoms following a concussion.

Experiencing a concussion can cause a person to develop bleeding in the brain that is contained between the surface of the brain and its outer covering. This is known as a subdural hematoma (SDH).

An SDH can cause pressure to build up between the brain and the skull. This pressure can compress and damage the brain. Without treatment, it can be fatal.

People who sustain a severe head injury may develop SDH symptoms soon after the incident. Those who sustain a minor head injury may develop SDH symptoms days or even weeks after the injury.

Symptoms may include:

  • a persistent or worsening headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • confusion
  • drowsiness or difficulty keeping the eyes open
  • vision problems, such as double vision
  • speech changes, such as slurred speech
  • paralysis on one side of the body
  • mood or personality changes
  • difficulty walking
  • frequent falls
  • convulsions or seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • persistent crying (in children)
  • refusal to eat or drink (in children)

A person needs emergency medical attention if they or their child shows any symptoms of an SDH following a head injury.

Medical experts now agree that it is not necessary for a person to stay awake following a concussion. However, it is important to wake a person with a concussion every few hours to ensure that they are not experiencing any deteriorating symptoms.

A concussion itself will not cause a coma or death. However, the head trauma that caused the concussion could cause serious and potentially life threatening complications.

For this reason, anyone who experiences symptoms of a concussion needs medical attention.