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Can’t Sleep After Head Injury? Helpful Tips to Make Your Brain Relax

what to do if you can't sleep after brain injury

What should you do when you can’t sleep after head injury?

In today’s article, we’re covering the best remedies for sleep disorders after TBI so you can finally get some much-needed rest.

Let’s get started!

Why You Can’t Sleep After Head Injury

There are several reasons why you might be having trouble sleeping after a head injury.

Physical and Chemical Problems

neurochemicals can affect sleep after tbi

Your brain controls your sleep patterns through circadian rhythms that send signals to your body to let it know when to go to sleep and when to wake up.

Injury to the areas to the brain that send these signals can cause disturbances in your body’s internal clock, making it difficult to fall asleep at night.

In addition, there are several neurotransmitters that regulate your sleep. After a brain injury, it’s possible that the brain is not producing enough of these neurotransmitters to help you sleep.

Finally, physical inactivity can also make it harder for a person to fall asleep at night.

Breathing Problems

After a head injury, the brain’s ability to control breathing during sleep can become altered.

This leads to a condition called “sleep apnea” where a person stops breathing long enough for their oxygen levels to drop. This can make it difficult if not impossible to sleep all the way through the night.

Psychological Problems

Psychological issues such as depression and anxiety can also cause you sleep problems.

Both of these conditions are common TBI side effects, and both are associated with insomnia and fatigue.


Some medications taken after brain injury can cause problems with going to sleep.

The problem can sometimes be fixed by changing the time when you take the medicine, or by substituting a different drug.

You should talk to your doctor first before making any changes.

How to Treat Sleep Problems after Head Injury

Now that you know some of the reasons for why you can’t sleep after your head injury, you’re probably wondering what you can do about it.

There are many options available to help you get healthy sleep again. But, before we dig in to those, there is one thing you should not be doing:

danger of sleeping aid after head injury

Do NOT use over-the-counter sleep aids.

Most over-the-counter sleep drugs contain antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, which are not recommended for people with head injuries because they can interfere with memory and learning.

Luckily, there are lots of alternatives to these drugs which do not have any negative effects.

1. Create Healthy Habits

eating healthy can help you sleep after head injury

Your first approach to treating sleep problems after head injury should be to change your habits.

Your lifestyle has a huge impact on your sleep, and as hard as it is to change, doing so is often all that is needed to overcome insomnia.

Here are a few suggestions to help yourself fall asleep at night:

  • Wake up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Limit TV during the day.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Don’t nap more than 20 minutes during the day.
  • At night, do not eat or watch TV in bed.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar for five hours before bed.

2. Natural Sleep Remedies

chamomile tea can help you relax if you can't sleep after head injury

If lifestyle changes are not enough to help you sleep, here are some non-pharmacological treatments that may work:

  • Herbal tea, especially chamomile, can help your mind relax enough to let you sleep. This can be especially helpful for patients struggling with anxiety. Try drinking some an hour or two before you go to bed.
  • Melatonin is one of the hormones your brain releases to help you fall asleep. Taking melatonin supplements can help your circadian rhythm get back on track and fall asleep faster at night.
  • Relaxation therapy. Meditation and relaxation techniques can calm your mind and emotions and allow you to sleep again.
  • If your sleep problems are stemming from depression, talking with a counselor familiar with TBI may be helpful.

3. Medications

talk to your doctor if you can't fall asleep after head injury

If all else fails, you should consult your doctor about medications and other interventions that might help you sleep.

Medications can be tricky, because they often cause daytime drowsiness and cognitive problems.

Still, some drugs can be a great short-term solution for insomnia and can often give you enough sleep to let your brain heal.

And there you have it! These are a few of the best ways to overcome sleeping problems after a head injury. We hope they help you finally get the relaxing sleep you deserve.

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