Managing Fatigue after a Brain Injury

18th May 2021

Managing Fatigue after a Brain Injury

Sarah Arnold, Chartered Legal Executive in the Higgs & Sons Personal Injury team, offers some tips for managing fatigue after a brain injury.

Action for Brain Injury Week gives us the opportunity to focus on some of the lesser-known consequences of a brain injury. Today we turn the spotlight on fatigue.

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness or weakness and can be either physical or mental, or both. Symptoms include feeling exhausted, weak, sleepy, lacking in energy and motivation.  We all tend to experience fatigue at some point after physical or mental activity – but for people who have experienced a brain injury, it can become a feature of everyday life.

An injury to the brain affects brain function.  This means that the brain may not operate as efficiently as it did prior to the injury and therefore has to work harder.  As a result, familiar activities can require more effort than before, such as walking and exercising. 

A reduction in brain function also affects cognition; meaning that it can be harder to concentrate, sustain attention and remember things following an injury. 

All of these factors can render someone vulnerable to experiencing fatigue.  Fatigue following a brain injury can be associated withforgetfulness, irritability, slurred speech, distractibility and dizziness.

Whilst fatigue is often alleviated by rest, ‘pathological fatigue’ such as that experienced following a brain injury, can be persistent and ever-present.  It may not be resolved with rest and can therefore affect a person’s ability to be able to carry out routine day-to day activities.

Managing fatigue therefore requires a variety of strategies to address the cause and manage the symptoms:

Recommended techniques and tips for managing fatigue include:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions and do not to dwell on them. Plan time to do the things you enjoy and acknowledge that you may not be able to do as much as you did previously.
  1. Be realistic as to what you are able to do.  Don’t dwell on what you can’t do.  If you are unable to complete an activity, then reschedule for another day when you are less fatigued.
  1. Plan time to do the things you enjoy and acknowledge that you may not be able to do as much as you did previously.
  1. Prioritising which tasks are most important or essential. Could you do any activities less often?  Planning and being organised will ensure that you achieve the tasks you set out to do.  Take in to account the times when you are at your best and as well as when you are most fatigued.  
  1. Physically resting by going somewhere quiet and sitting or lying down for a short period. It is better to take breaks often rather than having one long break when fatigue hits you.
  1. Power naps - avoid sleeping for longer than 30 minutes during the day. Sleeping after 4pm may disrupt your sleep cycle.
  1. Sleep hygiene - having a regular sleep routine helps the body to prepare for going to sleep by winding down and helps you to feel more alert on waking. Go to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time. 
  1. Exercising improves your capacity to undertake physical activities. Try to choose something which you enjoy as you are more likely to stick to it. Exercise can also energise you and can help you to sleep better.  
  1. Nutrition - eating the right food at the right times and keeping hydrated.                                         
  2. Medication - can cause drowsiness and could make you feel more tired during the day. Alternatives to some medications may be preferable.                                                            
  3. Organise your space and keep it uncluttered.  Keep things in the same place so that you don’t waste energy searching.  Use labels/signs to help you to find things more easily.            
  4. Cognitive (thinking) strategies such as using checklists to help you stay on track, planning your time by use of a diary, smartphone or calendar.  Use alarms to prompt you to do a task or to take a break.  Such alarms may be linked to a calendar such as smart watches. 

If you or your loved ones have been unfortunate to suffer a brain injury as a result of an accident, then our specialist team at Higgs & Sons can assist you in bringing a compensation claim and help you to secure the best rehabilitation.

Contact a member of the Higgs & Sons Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team to discuss.


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