To ensure optimal health and performance, adults need between seven and nine hours of quality sleep every night. Sleep deprivation is the culprit of a variety of issues, from obesity and high blood pressure to depression and decreased productivity. However, those who provide care to an aging loved one often find themselves sleeping less and less, putting their own needs behind the needs of the person in their care.
The Importance of Sleep for the Family Caregiver
Getting a good night’s sleep is not only necessary for you to take care of yourself, but also to ensure you’re providing the best care possible to your loved one. Some of the most important reasons family caregivers need a good night’s sleep include:
Staying physically healthy: A sleep-deprived body may not be able to fight off common infections like the cold or flu. Or, any current conditions you already have, like high blood pressure, are likely to worsen the less sleep you get.
Lessen the risk for mental health problems: Studies have linked sleep deprivation with depression and other mental health conditions. Plus, lack of sleep can lead to problems with memory and cognition or trouble thinking clearly in stressful situations.
Improve emotional health: Providing care to a loved one is usually an emotional rollercoaster, and you may find yourself unable to cope with all those ups and downs when you aren’t sleeping well. You might even act out of character, getting angry or irritated with the person in your care.
Provide the best care possible: Feeling exhausted throughout the day can take a toll on how well you’re providing the care your loved one needs. You may even start to question your caregiving abilities and the safety of your loved one under your care.
Not getting enough sleep will likely catch up with you sooner than later, and getting ample sleep each night can help you avoid caregiver stress and burnout.
Avoid Caregiver Burnout by Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
A family caregiver puts in many hours every day, participating in loved one’s healthcare tasks, providing transportation, and making sure the person in their care is safe. When it comes to sleep, studies have shown around 60% of family caregivers report getting less than seven hours of sleep every night, or suffer from various forms of insomnia. They may have difficulty falling asleep or falling back to sleep after being awoken, or wake up not feeling refreshed. Plus, a family caregiver providing care for a loved one with dementia may also deal with sundowning, when their loved one is more agitated later in the day and has trouble falling and staying asleep.
If you find you are not sleeping as well as you should, first, talk to both your own physician and your loved one’s physician. It may be possible to better manage the sleep problems your loved one is having, which in turn could help you sleep better.
Also, try to exercise daily and get out into the fresh air. Create a calming bedtime routine, where you read or watch a little television to relieve some of the stress of the day. Cut down on caffeinated drinks later in the day, and make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
Finally, seek respite care services from time to time to give yourself that much-needed break in caregiving duties. Or, consider starting the conversation about moving to an assisted living community, where you can have peace of mind that your loved one will receive the right level of care 24-hours a day, seven days a week.