When was the last time you heard to keep someone awake after they got a bump on the head? Was it pretty recent? In the age of the Internet, it’s easy to get misinformation. This is no more the case than with concussion recovery.
For years, parents were told to keep their children awake after sustaining a suspected concussion. This was due to a lack of knowledge on life-threatening brain bleeds, which can now be detected by a CT scan. Furthermore, less than 0.1% of concussions result in brain bleeds. Most head injuries for children, teens, and athletes are not severe enough to cause a brain bleed. This is why most doctors do not recommend keeping someone awake after a concussion unless other serious symptoms present themselves.
Now, however, new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that allowing your child to rest and good night’s sleep after a concussion is the key to a quick and better recovery.
Athletes & Concussion Recovery
According to the study, young athletes who got a good night’s sleep after sustaining a concussion were more likely to recover quickly and better than those who got poor sleep. Researchers found that those athletes who had poor sleep quality experienced symptoms longer than those athletes were able to rest and sleep well.
In fact, athletes with poor sleep had symptoms that lasted for more than a month. Furthermore, concussion patients who reported poor sleep quality were twice as lightly to have lingering symptom severity. They were also three times as likely to report greater symptom severity up to three months longer.
These symptoms included vertigo, headaches, eye and vision problems, and even neck pain.
“The importance of good sleep quality is often underestimated in young athletes,” Jane S. Chung, MD, FAAP, the primary author of the abstract and a sports medicine physician at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children said in a press release on the study. “Sleep is not only important for physical, mental, and cognitive well-being, but also seems to play a pivotal role in the recovery of the brain following a sport-related concussion.”
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What Should You Do?
Following a concussion, you should always check for symptoms such as unconsciousness, difficulty walking, complaints of head pain or headaches, vision and eye problems, and difficulty concentrating, among others. If your child is too young to report any symptoms, you just head into a doctor.
Furthermore, even if symptoms can’t be detected, doctors recommend to sit out the game. Researchers have found that those athletes who take a break after hitting their head were less likely to have lingering symptoms and long-lasting effects. This is especially important if symptoms aren’t noticeable at first. Furthermore, if you think the head was hit harder than reported, it’s a good idea to take a break.
The Power Of Good Sleep
Parents, coaches, and medical professionals should encourage getting a good night’s sleep after sustaining a concussion to prevent lingering symptoms. In fact, good sleep habits shouldn’t be underestimated at all in overall health and athletic performance.
“Pediatricians and health care providers involved in the care of young athletes should educate and emphasize the importance of good sleep quality and sleep hygiene for optimal overall health, performance, and recovery,” Dr. Chung said in the press release. “Parents can take small steps to help improve their child’s sleep quality by establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding electronics at least one hour prior to bedtime, and encouraging them to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night.”
However, good sleep and rest shouldn’t be confused with no activity at all.
Contrary to popular belief, total rest is not the best medicine for a concussion recovery. While getting a good night’s sleep is clearly beneficial for recovery, lack of physical activity is not. Physical activity, especially physical programs that can help with recovery such as physical therapy, can help dissipate the symptoms and treat the concussion.