FootballYou probably are familiar with the most important piece of advice if you hit your head: don’t go to sleep right away.

Sleeping masks signs of a concussion, which include: headache, a feeling of pressure, confusion, clumsiness (watch for a change in gait, or suddenly favoring one side of the body), slurred speech, drowsiness, and changes in perception (ringing in ears, funny taste, sudden light sensitivity). Any of these symptoms after a brain injury is a reason to see your doctor. Multiple call for a reason to go to the ER.

Here’s something else you should know: don’t think too hard after a concussion. Let your brain rest.

Thinking (increased cognitive activity) slows healing from a concussion, according to new research.

This is especially important for student athletes, who are one of the most at risk groups for concussions, and also the most likely to get pushed into high cognitive activity (school) before they’re done healing.

I think because the brain doesn’t move the way your lungs and heart do, and doesn’t need detoxing like your liver and kidneys, people tend to think of it as lower maintenance then it really is—keep a helmet on it, and you’ll be fine sort of thinking.

But in reality, your brain (which is arguably the most important part of you—it is you and shapes your experiences) needs the same level of care as the rest of you.

-Rest your brain after injury. Zone out to cruddy TV, meditate, or stare at ceiling tiles. If your doctor gives you the all clear, sleep.

-Sleeping actually does a lot for your brain: it rests it, and flushes out old chemicals so you can start anew. This is why getting a good night’s rest of natural sleep is so important—and why sleeping pills make you so funny things (like sleep driving—knowing how common this is becoming makes me shudder!)

-Good calories. Thinking actually uses quite a bit of calories—competitive Go (like chess) players will lose weight during games. But you also need to feed your brain healthy things, like antioxidants, which are found in fruits and veggies.

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