It’s important to listen to your body after a seizure. You may find you need to take it easy for a period until your mind and body have a chance to fully recover.

A seizure is an uncontrolled burst of electrical activity in your brain that can cause changes to your:

  • thinking
  • movement
  • consciousness
  • behaviors
  • feelings

When many people think of seizures, they think of tonic-clonic seizures that cause unconsciousness and full-body muscle spasms. However, there are many types of seizures. Some can be so mild that they’re unnoticeable, but it can still take a while to recover.

Seizures typically pass in a few seconds to minutes, but they can sometimes cause symptoms like fatigue or headaches that linger for hours to days.

Read on to learn more about how long it takes to recover from a seizure and what you can do to aid your recovery.

The recovery period directly after a seizure is medically known as the postictal phase. This period usually lasts between 5–30 minutes and can cause various symptoms, such as:

For some seizures, the transition from the seizure to the postictal state might not be obvious. It may only be detectable with tests like electroencephalogram or positron emission tomography.

Recovery period by seizure type, severity, and other factors

Seizures are broadly classified as:

  • focal when they only occur in one part of your brain
  • generalized when they occur in both halves of your brain
  • “aware” if you maintain consciousness
  • “impaired awareness” if you lose consciousness

Postictal symptoms of focal seizures with impaired awareness may resolve in 1–2 hours. Some symptoms like paralysis or weakness can take 1–2 days to fully resolve. Plus, some people may notice changes in their thinking, mood, and energy levels for days.

In a 2019 Japanese study, researchers examined the recovery period of adults with generalized seizures admitted to an emergency room at one hospital.

The researchers found that half of people had a postictal period lasting longer than 45 minutes. Sixty percent of people had a duration under 1 hour, while only 10% had a duration longer than 10 hours.

The recovery period was longer in people:

  • over 65 years old
  • with a higher reported disability
  • with a seizure duration of over 30 minutes
  • given antiepileptic drugs
  • who received intubation

You may feel exhausted or have cognitive changes like confusion or difficulty managing your emotions after a seizure. If possible, it’s a good idea to try to take it easy until your symptoms lessen.

You might find that you feel better if you lie down in a comfortable place to help reduce dizziness or tiredness. Many people find it helpful to perform activities that make them feel relaxed, such as:

  • surrounding themselves with loved ones or pets
  • spending time in bed with their favorite TV show
  • doing yoga or meditation
  • napping
  • drinking herbal tea

Until you feel better, it’s also a good idea to avoid:

  • driving
  • operating heavy machinery
  • lifting heavy objects
  • performing intense mental or physical exertion

If you follow a special diet like the keto diet to help manage your symptoms, it’s important to continue following your diet.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help ease your headache.

If somebody you’re with has a seizure

If you’re with somebody else who had a seizure, you can help them by:

  • staying with them until they’re fully awake
  • helping them sit in a safe place and let them know what occurred
  • comforting them by speaking calmly
  • checking to see if they’re wearing a medical bracelet
  • offering to make sure the person gets home safely
  • keeping other people around calm

It’s important to see a doctor if you develop new symptoms or changes to the frequency or severity of your seizures. You may not need to get medical attention if your doctor has already given you instructions on how to manage seizures at home.

Medical emergency

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends calling emergency medical services (911 in the United States) if any of the following is true:

  • the person who had a seizure has a health condition like heart disease or diabetes, or if they’re pregnant
  • it’s the person’s first seizure
  • the seizure happened in water
  • the person got hurt during their seizure
  • the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • the person has another seizure shortly after their first
  • the person has trouble breathing or walking after their seizure

Seizures can cause lingering symptoms that last less than an hour to days. You may develop various symptoms after a seizure is over, such as headache, fatigue, or mood changes.

It’s generally a good idea to take it easy after your seizure until you feel better. If possible, you may find it helpful to lie down in a relaxing space and avoid strenuous mental or physical activities.