Being very tired or having no energy is also called fatigue. If you’re recovering from a brain injury, fatigue is common and can last a long time.
Fatigue may be caused by:
- the injury
- the extra physical and mental effort you need to do tasks that you used to be able to do with little or no effort
- doing too much activity
- no longer being able to block out sights, sounds, or movements
When you’re really tired, it can affect how long you can do something. It can also affect how well you can pay attention, concentrate, remember things, and communicate.
When you have fatigue after a brain injury, you’ll get tired easily. You may also:
- sleep more and take naps during the day
- have headaches
- get upset easily
Tips for family and caregivers
It’s important to remember that someone with a brain injury may feel embarrassed and say they’re not tired. So they end up pushing themselves to be overtired, which can slow their recovery.
When a person with a brain injury goes home for the first time, it can be hard to know how much they can or should do. During this time you all may feel discouraged by how slow the recovery seems to be going or by the changes in responsibilities.
They may feel discouraged if they try to do or expect too much. This transition can be hard for the person with the brain injury and their family.
But this is just one step in the recovery process. In time, their energy level will likely get better and they’ll be able to do more activities and for longer.
The following tips can help you support someone who’s dealing with fatigue after a brain injury.
Rest and sleep
- A regular day and night routine is important.
- Set a schedule for regular rest breaks or naps. Make sure the room is quiet and there are no distractions. This includes turning off the TV or radio.
- Keep rest breaks or naps to 1 hour or less. Try not to let them nap in the evening.
- Schedule a nap before visitors come or before going out.
- Start with tasks you know they can do without getting too tired.
- Encourage breaks often during tasks (even every 5 minutes) or as soon as they start to look tired.
- Watch for signs of fatigue, such as not paying as much attention or not concentrating as well, repeating tasks or comments, getting easily upset, or making more mistakes.
- Slowly make tasks harder, but make sure they take as many breaks as they need.
- Slowly make breaks shorter and give fewer as they’re able to handle more time doing activities.
Activities and visitors
- Have them do important activities when they feel best. This is often in the morning. If they have an important activity later in the day, they may need to rest first.
- Limit the amount of time with visitors and the number of visitors.
- Make sure they have a rest break during visits.
- Plan ahead for activities that you know will be tiring, such as having visitors, going on trips, or going out.
- Add more activities slowly, over weeks or even months. Ask a healthcare provider for ways to do this.
- Write appointments and other things in a smart phone, calendar, or planner.
- Make sure they use any aids (like a cane or walker) if the healthcare team wants them to use one.