Caregiver Blog: Chasing Precious Sleep: Helpful Tips for Caregivers

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Skills

Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. - Thomas Dekker

Everyone can agree with the words above. Sleep is a basic human need. It is common knowledge that we need adequate hours of quality sleep to reset, restore, and repair the human body.

But, are you one of those caregivers who finds it hard to fall asleep most nights, easily wakes up at the faintest sound, and still feels tired in the morning? You belong to the 10% of the US adult population with chronic insomnia.

How does it feel to have insomnia? Here's a peek:

Your body is exhausted but your brain runs nonstop and won't slow down. The days seem so long but you still toss and turn in bed, trying to cast a spell for sleep to no avail. Counting sheep doesn’t help. Just when you think you’ve drifted to off to dreamland, you hear someone get up to use the bathroom and you’re back to square one. You envy those who can get even one night of undisturbed sleep. Your struggle is real.

Not to add insult to injury, here’s what science says happens without proper shuteye every night:

1. Fatigue

Because your body hasn’t had enough rest, the new day just feels like a continuation of the previous stressful day. You wake up still feeling tired and your lack of energy early in the day can worsen as your tasks pile up.

2. Bad mood and lack of patience

A lack of proper sleep can cause mood disturbances. You’re already on edge and tired, so you tend to react negatively to situations and get angry easily, even for the slightest reasons.

3. Drowsiness throughout the day

Of course, the body has to somehow cope with this kind of stress, so it will start begging for a long nap during the day, making you unproductive and leading to unsafe patient care procedures.

4. Brain fog and poor memory

Sleep deprivation kills focus and concentration. Even ordinary conversations at work seem hard to follow. You forget things easily. Don't be surprised if you forget the pulse rate you took a minute ago, which touches on the next dangerous effect.

5. Increased risk of mistakes or accidents

Imagine wheeling the wrong patient to the treatment room because lack of sleep has clouded your brain. What could have happened if patient verification did not proceed as per protocol? Preventing patient injury must be your priority when providing care.

6. Weakened immune system

Because repair and restoration of the body happen during sleep, you can get sick more easily and take a longer time to recover if you’re not getting adequate sleep at night. You may also gain weight and have an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
If you have the same problem, take heart! All is not lost. Follow the practical tips below:

Know your triggers. What makes you sleepy? What wakes you up? If you fall asleep to the TV and wake up when it’s turned off, by all means, put a TV in your bedroom and get comfortable! If your partner keeps you up, consider sleeping separately until your insomnia is under control.

Try sources of white noise or soothing background noise. The sound of TV static or trickling water from the faucet are examples of white noise that can induce sleep. You can also use apps to help you find soothing sounds, music, or podcasts to fall asleep to.

Eat food and drink fluids rich in the amino acid, tryptophan. Try bananas or warm milk.

Cut down on caffeine and nicotine. Stay away from caffeinated coffee and tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. Quit smoking.

Avoid heavy exercise before bedtime. Intense movement before sleep can stimulate you and keep you awake. But don't skip exercise altogether because some physical activity spends energy and can make you tired and drowsy.

Take a warm bath. A warm bath relaxes tensed muscles and sends signals to the brain that you are ready for a good night’s rest.

Make time for a whole-body massage. Call it a luxury if you want, but this technique helps loosen tight and sore muscles, improves circulation, and helps you relax—all of which you need to doze off.

Take a leave of absence or turn to respite care. Sometimes, all you need is a temporary break to show yourself some much needed love and pampering. You might consider asking someone to take over for a few days.

Consult a professional. Your insomnia may be too severe for the above tips to work their magic. You’ll need a sleep specialist who can provide treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or prompting changes in your behavior to induce sleep.

If you’re having a hard time catching up on needed rest, don’t give up on finding solutions! Be proactive in your struggle for a good night’s sleep so you can tackle the day.


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