Sleep Deprived Caregiver: Tips to Get More Sleep
Young african woman sleeping in her bed at night, she is resting with eyes closed

Being a caregiver isn’t a choice, or an obligation, it’s something we do because of love.

Someone we care about is suffering and we are there for them because, well, where else would we be?

It’s hard role to take on. The life of a caregiver is generally one of sacrifice: sacrifice of time, of relationships, of our own health and definitely of sleep.

And while it can be exhausting, we can’t just stop being a caregiver because no matter how much we are going through – the individual we are caring for is having a worse time.

But there are certain things caregivers can do to help themselves stay healthy and one of them is to improve how we sleep.

Below I am going to run through five essential tips to help you get better sleep…

Set a regular bedtime

Bedtimes aren’t just for children. In fact our bodies crave routine at any age. If we head to bed at a similar time each evening our brains become trained to associate that time with sleep.

Obviously as a caregiver we have an obligation to those we care for and often this means we aren’t masters of our own time. We may have to get up severely times a night to provide care, but at the same time what we can’t control we shouldn’t worry about.

Heading to bed at the same time each night is a smart move and over time it will seriously improve your ability to drop off.

Get into a pre-bed routine

The secret to better sleep is heading to bed in as relaxed state of mind as possible. Establishing a pre-bed routine can do wonders to achieve this.

The realities of being a carer often mean that your pre-bed routine may involve taking responsibility for the person you are caring for but where possible try and make time for yourself before letting your head hit the pillow.

Going to bed while you are still tense from the days activities will lead to nothing but tossing and turning.

Work backward an hour from your bedtime and treat this as your ‘wind-down’ time. Try to avoid starting any activities that may cause stress. Instead choose low impact activities that it will be possible to repeat each evening.

My routine consists of setting out my clothes for the following day, writing a to do list for the following day, taking a shower, brushing my hair, and then settling down with a book.

That works for me but it might not for you. Experiment with your own low impact activities until you find a set of actions that work for you.

Avoid screens

When we are dead on our feet after another of those neverending days, it can be really really tempting to unwind by spreading out in front of the telly until we fall asleep, or worse still, take our laptop to bed.

But tempting as it may be, almost nothing impacts upon the quality of our sleep like using screens in the evening.

The blue light they emit overstimulates our brains at the exact time we want to be winding down for rest.

If possible, give yourselves an hour, or at the very minimum 30 minutes, without screens before you head hits the pillow. There are multiple alternatives. Read a book. Or even listen to an audiobook while in the bath.

Check your position

As caregivers we often have to do a lot of physical activity that we may not be in peak condition for – say lifting individuals from beds to chairs and back again. And quite often we put unnecessary strain on our bodies.

So, when we wake up with crick in our neck or ache in the lower back we tend to explain it away as a consequence of our role.

But it could in fact be due to how you are sleeping. Something not a lot of us spend much time thinking about. But considering that we spend roughly one-third of our lives doing it – it should be.

Most of us head to bed, toss and turn and eventually drop off in any old position. Whatever works seems to be the general plan when it comes to how we sleep.

But everybody is different and the position we find it easiest to fall asleep in is not necessarily the best position for our body type, often leading to aches and pains in the morning.

For advice on sleep positions check out this useful article from the experts at the Sleep Advisor blog.

Eat smarter

When you have spent the day caring for another it can be so easily not to care about yourself. Especially when it comes to your diet.

When you are tired your will-power is not very strong. As a consequence it is so easy to succumb to junk food, take-aways or ready meals in the evening.

But what you are eating and when you are eating it can play a big role in how well you sleep.

Larger, or heavy meals are more difficult for your digestive system to handle. And with all that churning going on down there it can be really hard for your body to get in a more for sleep.

So in future, eat earlier or stick to something lighter, your sleep will thank you.

There you have it, five tips to help you get more sleep.

 

Let’s be honest as a caregiver you are still likely to spend most of your time tired but getting into some healthier sleep routines will at least give your body a chance to restore itself and put you in a better position to dedicate your time to those you love.


Sarah Cummings

Written by Guest Author
The Caregiver Space accepts contributions from experts for The Caregiver's Toolbox and provides a platform for all caregivers in Caregiver Stories. Please read our author guidelines for more information and use our contact form to submit guest articles.

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8 Comments

  1. I always appreciate something like this. It brings out all the real people that are care givers, the ones that are doing it alone, the ones that are not young, not rich, just every day people who have real life issues. I just wish some one in the government, or insurance companies would see how debilitating it is to be a care giver. Nothing goes as planned, as matter of fact you can’t make any plans. Life becomes moment by moment, not enough sleep, poor eating habits, no social life and going broke, financially, emotionally and physically.

    Reply
  2. I have and I’m very ill from exhaustion…eventually I’m going to need placement option ..only child , 53 and I’ve become very ill

    Reply
  3. Wow, what a fantasy! I wish my experience of caregiving were so tidy & simple. No mention of changing loved ones night gown 3x a night, feces in their hair, ‘sleeping’ with one eye/ear open, always, for a decade. Broken sleep persists. Too often, I read these articles, and feel more isolated.

    Reply
    • I hear you; I was sole caregiver for my mom for years and went through the same things. She’s been gone for eight months now, and I still wake up during the night thinking that I hear her, and I often wake up panicking from a dream that she’s lost and needs me and I can’t find her. I’m not sure if I will ever get back to a “normal” sleep pattern.

      Reply
  4. Been there twice!

    Reply
  5. Thanks for the tips! I’ve been trying to read (a real book) and not use anything with a screen for at least a half hour before bed. It seems to be helping. It’s also nice to get a little me time in by listening to music.

    Reply
  6. #truestory. #LifeOfaCaregiver

    Reply
  7. I finally stopped working as working and home caretaking was taking a great toll on my health. I’m getting more sleep . I look back and see that I was heading down a road of my own self destruction

    Reply

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