Sleep Problems After a Car Accident

Experiencing a car accident can damage more than just your vehicle—it can also disrupt your sleep patterns and overall well-being. Here we will look into common sleep problems that may arise after a car accident and provide insights on how to address them effectively.

Understanding these issues and implementing practical strategies can help you navigate the aftermath of a car accident with greater ease and improve your overall sleep quality.

What Causes Sleeping Problems After a Car Accident?

After a car accident, it’s common for people to experience sleeping problems due to a variety of factors. These may include:

  • Physical Injuries and Pain:
    Broken bones, head injuries, and other bodily harm can lead to discomfort, pain, and restless nights. Disrupted sleep patterns, discomfort while trying to find a comfortable position, or the need for medication can all contribute to sleep difficulties.
  • Psychological and Emotional Impact:
    The emotional trauma and stress associated with the motor vehicle accident can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These psychological conditions can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, causing nightmares, frequent awakenings, or difficulty falling asleep.
  • Medications and Pain Management:
    Some pain medications may have side effects that impact sleep quality. These can include drowsiness, disrupted sleep cycles, or difficulty falling asleep.
  • Disruption of Normal Sleep Schedule:
    Hospital stays, medical appointments and the overall healing process can lead to drastic changes in bedtime routine and habits. This disruption can make it challenging to establish a consistent sleep schedule, resulting in sleep difficulties.
What Causes Sleeping Problems After a Car Accident?

Is it Safe to Sleep After a Car Accident?

While it’s generally safe to sleep after a car accident, there are situations where it may not be advisable, here are some examples:

  • Medical Attention: Undergo a thorough medical evaluation after an auto accident, even if you do not exhibit immediate symptoms or visible injuries. Some injuries, such as whiplash or internal bleeding, may not manifest immediately but can have serious consequences if left untreated.
  • Concussion or Head Injury: Concussions can cause changes in brain function and may require close monitoring. Healthcare professionals may recommend staying awake for a certain period of time to monitor symptoms before allowing sleep.
  • Alcohol or Drug Use: If alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident, avoid sleeping until medical professionals have assessed your condition. Substance use can mask symptoms of underlying injuries, making it unsafe to determine your own level of consciousness.

Dealing With Hypersomnia After a Car Accident

Hypersomnia, or excessive sleeping, can be a common sleep issue experienced by accident victims after a car accident. The trauma from the accident can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and lead to increased daytime sleepiness and an overwhelming need to sleep for extended periods.

Excessive sleepiness can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, making it difficult to concentrate, perform daily tasks, or engage in activities they once enjoyed. It can also impair cognitive function and memory, affecting overall productivity and well-being.

Physical injuries sustained during the collision can lead to pain and discomfort, making it challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position. The psychological impact of the accident, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety, can contribute to hypersomnia.

Symptoms may include prolonged sleep periods, difficulty waking up even after a full night’s sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and difficulty staying awake during daily activities. These symptoms can persist for weeks or even months after the accident.

Dealing With Hypersomnia After a Car Accident

Insomnia After a Car Accident

Insomnia, or difficulty sleeping, is another common sleep problem that accident victims may experience after a car accident. The physical and psychological impact of the accident can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, causing individuals to struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.

Physical injuries sustained during a car accident, such as whiplash or fractures, can lead to pain and discomfort that make it challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position. The constant throbbing or aching can keep individuals awake, even when they are physically exhausted.

On the psychological side, the trauma and stress of the accident can trigger anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These emotional conditions can contribute to insomnia, as individuals may experience racing thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks that disturb their sleep.

The lack of quality sleep can have serious consequences on accident victims’ physical and mental health. It can exacerbate existing physical injuries, delay the healing process, and impair cognitive function. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of accidents due to daytime drowsiness and reduce overall quality of life.

Other Sleep Issues After Car Accident

After a car accident, individuals may experience a range of sleep issues beyond the immediate aftermath. Below is a list of a few sleep issues:

Sleep Apnea

This condition can be caused by the impact of the accident on the respiratory system or by the development of excess weight due to reduced physical activity.

Sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness and fatigue, as individuals are constantly awoken throughout the night to resume normal breathing. This can significantly impact their ability to function during the day, making it difficult to concentrate or stay alert while driving or working.

Sleep-Wake Cycle

The trauma of the accident can throw off their natural circadian rhythm, making it challenging to fall asleep or wake up at regular times. This can result in irregular sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and a decrease in overall sleep quality.

Sleep cycle disturbances are noted in up to 47% of people who have experienced a brain injury, and can include restless limbs and even sleep apnea. [1]

Other Sleep Issues After Car Accident

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

TBIs can affect the brain’s ability to regulate sleep, causing disruptions in sleep architecture and the sleep cycle. This can lead to irregular sleep patterns, fragmented sleep, or excessive sleepiness during the day.

Sleep disturbance is common following a traumatic brain injury, affecting 30 to 70 percent of individuals, even those who sustain only mild injuries. [2]

Restless Legs Syndrome

Accident victims may also experience restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs during sleep. This can cause discomfort and restlessness, making it difficult for individuals to achieve restorative sleep.

Common Treatments for Sleep Problems After a Car Wreck?

After a car accident, individuals may experience various sleep problems, such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I): CBT-I is a structured therapeutic approach that aims to identify and modify the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that contribute to sleep difficulties. It involves several components such as sleep hygiene education, stimulus control therapy, relaxation techniques, and cognitive restructuring.
  • Medication: can also be prescribed to manage sleep problems after a wreck. Commonly prescribed medications for sleep problems include sedative-hypnotics such as benzodiazepines or non-benzodiazepine receptor agonists. These medications can help induce sleep and promote relaxation but may carry risks of dependency and side effects if used for extended periods.
  • Sleep hygiene practices: Play a role in promoting healthy sleep patterns. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help regulate the body’s internal clock. Creating a comfortable sleep environment by keeping the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet can also enhance the quality of sleep. Avoiding stimulating activities close to bedtime, such as using electronic devices or consuming caffeine or nicotine, is essential for promoting relaxation before sleep.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practices such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help reduce anxiety and promote a calm state conducive to sleep.
  • Sleep restriction therapy: This technique involves limiting the time spent in bed to match the actual amount of sleep obtained. By gradually increasing the time allowed for sleep as sleep efficiency improves, this therapy aims to consolidate sleep and improve overall sleep quality.
  • Light therapy: Exposure to bright light, particularly in the morning, can help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm and improve sleep-wake patterns.
  • Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity during the day can promote better sleep at night. However, avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it may have a stimulating effect.
Common Treatments for Sleep Problems After a Car Wreck?

If your life has been affected detrimentally by an accident, whether it be your sleep cycles or injuries, contact Goldberg & Loren’s today to schedule a free consultation with one of our dedicated auto accident attorneys


[1] Control, M. C. F. P. (2023, August 3). Sleeping After a Car Accident – Facts You Should Know | MAPS. MAPS Centers for Pain Control.

[2] Sleep Disturbance After a Car Accident – West Coast Wellness. (2021, April 20). West Coast Wellness.

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