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Changes After a Brain Injury

Fatigue after a Brain Injury

Fatigue is the feeling of being very tired or having no energy. It’s common in people recovering from a brain injury. It can also last a very long time.

Fatigue may be caused by the injury, or from the extra physical and mental effort needed to do tasks that once were done with little or no effort.

How long one can do something physically, attention, concentration, memory, and communication can all be affected when someone is tired.

You will find that he tires easily. He may sleep more and/or take naps during the day. He may have headaches or be irritable—these can all be caused by fatigue.

Too much activity or no longer being able to block out sights, sounds, or movements can also cause fatigue. He may feel embarrassed and say that he’s not tired. The trouble is that he may then push himself to the point where he’s over-tired, which could slow his recovery.

When a person with a brain injury goes home for the first time, it can be hard to know how much he can or should do. Often during this transition, he and his family may become discouraged how slow the recovery seems to be going, changes in responsibilities, or they may try to do or expect too much.

This is just one step in the recovery process. In time, his energy level likely will improve, and he’ll be able to do more activities and for longer.

To help someone with fatigue

Rest and sleep

  • A regular day/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 the TV or radio off as this is just more information for the brain to process.
  • Rest breaks or naps shouldn’t be longer than 1 hour. Try not to let him nap in the evening.
  • Schedule a nap before visitors come or before going out.


  • Start with tasks you know he can do without becoming too tired.
  • Encourage breaks, even as often as every 5 minutes during tasks, before, or as soon as he shows signs that he’s tired.
  • Watch for signs of fatigue, such as not paying as much attention or not concentrating as well, repeating tasks or comments, becoming irritable, or making more mistakes.
  • Gradually increase how hard the task is, making sure he takes breaks as needed.
  • Slowly make the breaks shorter and fewer as he is able to tolerate activities better.

Activities and visitors

  • Important activities should be done when he’s feeling best, often in the morning. If an activity is planned for later in the day, he may need to rest first.
  • Limit his with visitors or make sure he has a rest break during visits.
  • Plan ahead for activities that you know will tire him, such as visitors, trips, or going out.
  • Resume activities gradually, over weeks or even months. Ask your healthcare provider for ways to do this.
  • Write things/appointments, etc. in a smart phone, calendar, or planner.
  • If the healthcare team recommends, use assistive aids (for example, a cane or a wheeled walker).​

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