Insomnia is a highly common issue among those who are taking care of a loved one. And it’s not hard to see why. Caregivers may be working full-time jobs as well as helping their friends or relatives with daily tasks, so sleep often takes a backseat. Repeated disruption or lack of sleep affects not just your own mental and physical health, but also your ability to provide the level of care that is needed to your loved ones. If you’re struggling with insomnia related to your responsibilities as a caregiver, here’s how to tackle the problem head-on.
1. Set up a regular sleep schedule
One of the most important ways to regulate your sleep cycle is to set up a regular sleep schedule. Keeping this schedule with a predetermined sleep and wake time can help to reset your body’s natural rhythm. If you need help to remind you of when to start winding down at night, there are many phone apps that you can help by prompting you to start winding down at a set time or you can simply set an alarm or calendar reminder to alert you. Maintaining this schedule can help you fall asleep more easily and wake rested.
2. Get regular physical activity
Physical activity can also aid in helping you sleep. It does not have to be anything strenuous. Even light physical activity like walking or riding a bike can be enough. In addition to physical activity, being exposed to sunlight can help your circadian rhythm and help get you ready for sleep at night.
3. Create an environment for restful sleep
One of the best ways to help you ease into a restful sleep is to create the right sleep environment. Make sure that the room you sleep in is as cool, dark, and quiet as possible and that the linens are comfortable. If a pet usually sleeps with you but is usually active at night, encourage them to sleep elsewhere in order to prevent them from disturbing you.
4. Avoid electronic devices a few hours before bedtime
Avoiding electronic devices with blue light 2 to 3 hours before bedtime can also help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Blue light, the light that comes from electronic devices such as cellphones and LED light bulbs, has been shown to suppress melatonin for about twice as long compared to other light colors (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours). Adjusting the setting on your electronic devices to dim at a set time at night or purchasing blue light filtering glasses can help decrease your exposure if you must use a device emitting blue light soon before bedtime.
5. Get assistance with your to-do list
If the items on your to-do list weigh on your mind and keep you awake at night, seek assistance. Delegating tasks to others can help relieve some of the burdens from you. Even small chores like cleaning a few rooms of the house or picking some items up from the drug store can help. If anyone asks to help out, take them up on their offer. If you do not have anyone that is willing to offer assistance, decide how to find someone who can. Many companies offer services such as cleaning, running errands, or even sitting with your aging loved one so that you can have a break. It’s typical to feel guilty about accepting help, but it is not a sign of failure. The less overwhelmed you feel, the better you’ll sleep and the better you’ll be able to take care of your loved one and yourself.
As a caregiver, you’re already shouldering so much responsibility. Repeatedly getting less than seven hours of sleep each night, not only affects your energy level but can also put you at an increased risk of depression, stroke, heart disease, colorectal and breast cancers, diabetes, and premature death. If you are the caregiver to a loved one, you owe it to yourself as well as the person you provide care for, to take steps to improve the amount and quality of your sleep. There are numerous resources and apps available to assist with sleep training and relaxation to help get the ball rolling. If ultimately the source of your stress and lack of sleep is due to thinking about the “what ifs” surrounding the person you care for, contact Care Right. There are several services and options available to assist and support caregivers with planning and advocacy. Give us a call to learn how we can help you to start resting easier at night.