Learning to manage my fatigue and sleep pattern was a huge factor in my brain recovery.
First, I had to overcome my insomnia.
Then, I had to manage my inability to get through the day without 18hours sleep! Below are my top tips on how I found the right balance for me, but for more tips and to understand how I managed my fatigue in full, read my full post on managing fatigue here.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that makes you more aware of the present moment and your surrounding environment, and more importantly helped me to switch off from the pain and stress that came with my brain injury. Mindfulness for me had many benefits, including helping me to overcome my inability to sleep, it helped me to de-stress after the day, it gave my brain an opportunity to relax and switch off without having to nap and it helped me massively when it came to my episodes.
Exercise had many benefits for me but one thing that it really helped me with was my fatigue. It started with short walks and over time progressed to running and the gym as I felt both my brain and body get stronger.
Firstly, it helped me to overcome my insomnia – it meant that not only was I mentally exhausted but also physically tired at the end of the day. And then, when I struggled to stay awake all day long I found that exercise helped my brain to relax and switch off without having to physically go to sleep. It gave my brain time to rest and recover from the day without having to take ANOTHER nap! The mental exhaustion would ease and my mental and physical fatigue would strike a balance. Of course sometimes naps are best though!
3. Nap: Little & Often
Try napping for shorter periods of time but more frequently throughout the day. Instead of one long nap in the day, taking multiple shorter ones means that your brain is actually getting more time to recover and relax throughout the day and isn’t challenged with long periods of ‘awake’ ‘time at once.
This one is pretty simple. Cut out caffeine!
Caffeine is a stimulant. It’s essentially a legal drug. If you have a brain injury you need to cut out all caffeine. And this isn’t just coffee. This also includes tea (even most herbal teas such as green tea have caffeine in them), soft drinks – diet and otherwise – and energy drinks.
However, I found chamomile tea was great for helping me sleep! Decaffeinated tea and coffee are fine too, although I think they should be reserved as a treat!
Nutrition and diet is so important for brain recovery, but I often found that I was too tired to even remember to eat sometimes! Then, when I did remember, I was too tired to cook and as a result this led to me being even more tired!
Napping little and often freed up more time for me to get more food into me, which also meant I now had more fuel to help my brain to recover. Read more about how I used the right foods to fuel my body and help my brain to recover here.