As a junior college student, I am having problem that I have never experienced before: falling asleep in class. This is not to say that I have never been tempted to lay my head down on a desk or have never drifted off for a second or two. This year, it is more intense. I will be paying attention in class and then my vision will start to double or I will not be able to visually focus on anything. Even though I recognize that these symptoms are a precursor to me falling asleep, I cannot stop it. The voice in my head is screaming STAY FOCUSED, but it is useless. After my vision becomes unclear, I do not even recognize the exact moment when I fall asleep. Then, I wake up confused and upset mid-class after about 15 minutes. This situation has happened to me at least once a day on my three busiest school days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) since the start of school, and it is downright frustrating. I want to understand a possible explanation as to why this is happening to me.
This is an example of how I start to see right before I knock out in class. Click Here to visit the page where I got this image.
At the end of last semester, I got a serious concussion. I am a sleepwalker, and I was fighting someone in my dream. In reality, I smacked my head of my bedroom wall. Four months later, I still experience minor symptoms. I get headaches and dizzy if I work too long at my computer or read for extensive periods of time. When I was recovering from my concussion, I experienced this overwhelming sensation of needing to fall asleep when I tried to overwork myself. Now, I have a similar experience when I am in class for a long time. Could my past concussion still be affecting me now? Is this the why I keep falling asleep in class?
What I Learned:
According to Mayo Clinic, there is a disorder called post-concussion syndrome. The site says that post-concussion syndrome can affect a person for a long time after their concussion. It seems that the symptoms, if any, are most likely to be experienced within a year after the injury, but they syndrome could last longer. The Mayo Clinic Staff lists some of the symptoms that match what I am experiencing including being tired, losing focus, and getting dizzy.
Mayo Clinic’s description of post-concussion syndrome matches what I am experiencing. With that being said, I have not seen a doctor to officially diagnose me with post-concussion syndrome. On my last visit with my concussion specialist, my doctor said that it may take awhile to be symptom-free, and if I experience symptoms, I should just rest. Since I am a busy college student taking 23 credits, resting anytime I feel like it is needed is not an option. Mayo Clinic’s webpage explains how there are not really any medications or treatments to easily cure my post-concussion syndrome-like symptoms.
After reading about post- concussion syndrome, I think I can correlate my constant falling asleep as a residual symptom of my concussion. Since I have not been tested or seen a doctor, I cannot 100% confirm that I have this syndrome. There is still a possibility that falling asleep in class is due to chance or a third, confounding variable. For example, a potential third variable could be that I actually just need more sleep every night. Another confounding variable is how much I eat on my busy days. Since I have five classes in a row on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I only have time to eat some crackers or a piece of hand fruit in between the class changes. My energy levels might be low. In the meantime, I am going to try to take a break when I start to notice my vision getting blurred. I think it is worth leaving class for a five minute mental break instead of falling asleep for fifteen minutes in the front row.