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Sleep Problems After a Car Accident: What’s Normal and When to Be Concerned

Woman with a tired expression to indicate sleep problems after getting into a car accident.

Every 10 seconds, someone is injured in a car accident. These frightening and sometimes violent incidences severely strain the mind and body. Even minor crashes can result in exhaustion and fatigue.

Then there are people who suffer the opposite response and find themselves unable to sleep normally due to issues such as anxiety and painful injuries. A study by British researchers found that around one-third of people involved in non-fatal crashes deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), persistent anxiety, depression, and phobias up to a year after the incident.

What’s going on, and do sleep issues after a motor vehicle accident indicate deeper problems?

Car Accidents Are Traumatic Events

Motor vehicle accidents can cause short- and long-term stress that can affect your outlook and sleep. Stress hormones can linger in the body for months after a traumatic event. This can affect sleep quality, dreams, and how well-rested you feel in the morning.

A car crash may also trigger depression. The pain of depression isn’t as obvious as a physical injury, so it’s important to recognize the signs and receive help right away. If you notice any of the following symptoms of depression, speak with a mental healthcare provider immediately:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling sad all the time
  • Intense anxiety
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in life and activities
  • Sleeping too much

When Is It Safe to Sleep After a Car Accident?

You may have heard sensational stories of people who have gone to sleep after an accident and never woken up. It’s understandable then that you may feel anxious about sleeping after a car accident.

What all these stories have in common is that the person who passed away had suffered a severe head injury or brain bleed but didn’t realize it or recognize the signs. If you suspect you or a loved one suffered an injury to the head, seek out medical care at the nearest emergency room to be evaluated.

It’s important to keep in mind that being unable to wake up after a crash is very rare. In the vast majority of situations, it’s safe to sleep after a car accident. In fact, getting a good night’s rest is key to helping your body and mind recover after such a traumatic event.

Hypersomnia (Excessive Sleeping)

In the immediate aftermath of a crash, some people report brain fog or have difficulty recalling what happened. They fall asleep and wake up many hours later. In some cases, they sleep through their alarm, people trying to shake them awake, and loud noises.

While sleeping a little extra after a car accident is sometimes normal, excessive sleep and chronic drowsiness many days afterward may indicate a range of serious issues. One of the most common causes of hypersomnia is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Up to 70% of patients with mild TBIs report poor or excessive sleep after their injury.

A TBI or concussion can alter parts of the brain that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Damage to this area can change your ability to stay awake and focused. Concussion victims often report feeling confused and tired and suffering from mood swings and headaches.

If you find yourself suddenly sleeping a lot after a car accident, have a doctor or concussion expert examine you as soon as possible for a potential brain injury. While physical and psychological fatigue may be common immediately after a car accident, chronic fatigue and excessive sleep are not.

Read More: Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion: 40 Symptoms You Should Know

Insomnia (Difficulty Sleeping)

The opposite may also occur after a car accident. Some victims report suffering from insomnia; no matter how exhausted they feel, they can’t get enough sleep or stay asleep for long periods.

It’s common for people who’ve been through a car accident to have trouble falling asleep. Their mind races through the events of what happened, or they feel anxious and stressed from dealing with the accident’s fallout.

Have a doctor evaluate you for anxiety, depression, and PTSD. There is a range of treatment options they can recommend to help you regain a restful night’s sleep.

Other Sleep Issues After Car Accident

If you are suffering from one or more of the following sleep problems after a wreck, you need to see a physician:

  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sleepwalking

Quality sleep is vital to leading a healthy and productive life. Talk to a doctor about your issues and follow through with treatment.

Treatment for Sleep Problems After a Wreck

Recognizing that you have sleep issues is the first step to getting help. Treatment may include anxiety management, breathing and relaxation exercises, and sleep medications.

If your sleep problems are caused by a brain injury, treatment will depend on the severity of the injury and the types of symptoms. It can take weeks or months to recover from a TBI. In some cases, the effects of a brain injury become permanent, especially if treatment is delayed.

Recovery after a concussion will be slow and gradual. A treating physician may recommend medication, time off work or school, and a limit on social and physical activities. TBI patients may require rehabilitation to re-learn how to speak, walk, or perform other daily tasks.

Get Help From an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer

When you are hurt in a car accident in Georgia, your injuries may not be immediately obvious. Serious, life-threatening injuries like traumatic brain injuries can take hours or days to manifest.

Insurance companies will try to use this delay against you. To protect yourself, you need an experienced car accident law firm on your side. At Gary Martin Hays & Associates, we have extensive experience representing injured car accident victims and work for our clients every step of the way.

To learn more about your legal rights after a car accident, contact us at (770) 934-8000. We offer free, confidential consultations for all injured accident victims to help you choose the legal path that’s right for you.

Categories: Car Accident Posts
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