Getting enough sleep is tough for many people. Add the constant worry about looking after someone else’s care, potential interruptions throughout the night, and the stress of trying to fit it all in can make sleep for a caregiver seem impossible.
If you’re having difficulty falling, and staying, asleep here are some tips that may help:
Improve Your Sleep Schedule
Stick to a schedule: Establishing a regular sleep and wake time can help your body know when it should be resting. It’s important to stick to this schedule every day, including weekends.
Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual: Maybe you enjoy a relaxing bath, or reading a book with a (non-caffeinated) tea to help you unwind. Find something that makes you feel relaxed and make it part of your nightly routine.
Limit naps – especially late afternoon: Naps may seem like a good idea, but not when they are interrupting your ability to fall asleep at night. If you must nap try to take a short (about 20 minutes) nap earlier in the day.
Daily exercise – just not right before bed: Maintaining an active lifestyle is not only good for your health, but it also promotes a more restful sleep. Try not to do vigorous workouts right before your scheduled bed time since that may end up giving you an energy boost right when you want to wind down.
Watch What You Eat & Drink
Reduce caffeine: Reducing, or even eliminating, your daily caffeine intake can have a positive effect on your sleep habits. You may notice that as you age caffeine has a stronger effect on your body. If you don’t want to completely eliminate caffeine from your diet, try consuming it earlier in the day.
Limit alcohol: According to Mental Health Canada alcohol may initially help a person fall into a light sleep, but they won’t be able to transition into the deeper, more restorative stage of sleep that’s needed.
Eat a light evening meal: Eating a heavy meal and then getting right into bed can leave you feeling uncomfortable and keep you up. Ensuring that you are eating nutritious meals at appropriate times throughout the day will provide you with enough energy to get you through a busy day while allowing your body to relax in time for bed.
Create the Perfect Sleep Environment
Eliminate screen time before bed: Studies have shown that the blue light emitted from your phone, tablet, or TV has a negative effect on your circadian rhythm. Try to give yourself a cut-off time for these devices such as one to two hours before bed. Try reading, or listening to music or a podcast in order to unwind.
Lower room temperature: Many people find sleeping in a room that is slightly on the cool side helps them get a more comfortable sleep. It’s hard to stay asleep when you’re overheating under your pajamas and covers.
White noise: A little bit of white noise, either from a white-noise machine, or a fan, can help drown-out external noises that may otherwise disturb your sleep.
Darken the room: Remove, or cover, sources of light. Even light from an alarm clock can disturb your sleep. Invest in black-out window coverings, and a comfortable eye mask to help keep excess light out.
Remove clutter, make the bed: Keeping your sleep area free of clutter can help your mind relax. Interestingly, taking a few minutes every day to make your bed can help create a peaceful rest environment that will increase your chances for a better night’s rest.
Mind Over Matter
Get out of bed: Inevitably there will be nights you find yourself tossing and turning unable to sleep. When you find yourself in this situation it’s recommended that you actually get out of bed for a bit. Focus your mind on something else, like reading a book, before attempting to get back into bed.
Meditation/stress management: Worries and anxiety are often the culprit when it comes to trouble sleeping. It’s hard to shut off your thoughts. You may find meditation or breathing exercises helpful to relax your mind and body. Another exercise you can try is to write down the things that are worrying you. This is a way to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. It may help to make a quick to-do list for the next day so that you’re not worrying about trying to remember all that needs to be done.
Comfortable mattress, pillow, blankets, sleepwear: In addition to a comfortable temperature, eliminating sources of light and sound, take a look at your bedding and sleepwear. You want to ensure these items are made from comfortable, breathable materials, and, are appropriate to the climate.
If you’re still having trouble with getting quality sleep after making adjustments to your lifestyle and sleep environment, it’s best to speak with a health care professional. Contact a Caregiver Coach for help addressing your specific needs so you can get some much-needed rest.