Fatigue is a common complaint among people with TBI and often occurs in conjunction with sleep disturbances. The body needs a large amount of metabolic energy for healing after traumatic injuries.

Usual patterns of rest and activity are often very different for many weeks to months after TBI. Fatigue affects the service member or veteran both physically and mentally. They may have to work harder to learn, stay focused, and improve their ability to concentrate. Fatigue may also lead to feelings of irritability, headaches, or other bodily aches and pains.

Fatigue may reduce the speed and quality of rehabilitation. It can also slow down the return to normal life activities, such as school or work.

For most people recovering from a TBI, fatigue gradually lessens over time, and their stamina and endurance improve. However, endurance for some may never return to what it was before the injury. They will have to learn to pace themselves with daily activities more than they used to.

What might you see?

  • Frequently tired
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor stamina
  • Slower thinking speed

How can you help?

  • Ask the provider or a physical or occupational therapist to develop a safe, regular exercise program for the service member or veteran.
  • Set up a daily schedule. Make sure it includes enough rest. Use a calendar to help you follow the schedule.
  • Reduce family and social demands.
  • Help the service member or veteran to pace themselves with daily activities; ask them to conserve energy for important tasks in the day.
  • Schedule important appointments for times of the day when they are most awake.
  • Learn the signs of fatigue in the service member or veteran. Ask him or her to do the same. Make a list of the signs you observe and keep it with you in a journal.
  • Inform the healthcare team about changes in sleep patterns or stamina.
  • Talk to the healthcare team to discuss other causes of fatigue. Many conditions associated with TBI can contribute to the problem of ongoing fatigue.