This article was contributed by Rachael Lee McCowen, a Care Advisor for Caregiver Homes. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.
Tossing and turning late into the night. Checking off mental to-do lists before bed. Sleep can sometimes feel like a luxury, but getting adequate rest is essential, especially for those who provide around-the-clock care to others.There are great benefits to consistently getting a good night’s rest, including better health, mood, and decision-making skills. But caregivers often neglect this important aspect of their lives. In fact, a National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) study on caregiver health risks found 87 percent of caregivers surveyed suffered from a lack of sleep or energy.
In honor of Better Sleep Month, here are some sleeping tips for caregivers:
1. Minimize the amount of light, noise, and temperature changes in the bedroom.
2. Avoid eating large meals before bed. Indigestion can make falling asleep difficult.
3. Stick to a sleep schedule. It is important to keep bedtimes and wake times consistent from day to day, including on weekends.
4. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol consumed during the day, especially close to bedtime.
5. Keep computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room to strengthen the association between your bedroom and sleep.
6. Avoid napping during the day. It can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
7. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if medications could be contributing to your sleeplessness. Also, check the labels of over-the-counter products to see if they contain caffeine or other stimulants, such as pseudoephedrine.
8. Get out of bed when you are not sleeping. If you cannot sleep, get out of bed after 20 minutes and do something relaxing, such as reading. Then try falling asleep again.
9. Drink enough fluid at night to keep from waking up thirsty, but not so much and so close to bedtime that you will wake to take a trip to the bathroom.
10. If sleep difficulties do not improve through good sleep hygiene, you may want to consult your doctor or a sleep specialist to find out if you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or another clinical sleep problem. Underlying health problems (such as depression, anxiety, hyperthyroidism, heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) could also be keeping you awake.
Inadequate sleep can manifest itself physically and emotionally and interfere with your functioning and quality of life. While caregiving responsibilities often take priority, caregivers need to be mindful of their own well-being and avoid sacrificing sleeping needs. In order to care for others, you have to also care for yourself. Incorporate these strategies to your routine to prepare for a better night’s sleep.