Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to ensure you’re at your best to care for someone – and to bolster your own health. You may think sleeping for a full eight hours leads to poor or neglectful bad caregiving, but experts say the exact opposite is true.
It’s not news that when your care for someone else – whether that’s a disabled child, sick spouse or aging parent – your own health suffers. And perhaps more than anything, sleep is likely to take a hit. The truth is that losing sleep not only hurts your health, but also makes your role as caregiver more difficult. Here are some tactics to make sleep come easier, even on the most hectic I-don’t-have-time-for-bed days.
IT’S YOUR MOST IMPORTANT TASK
You may see taking a full eight hours sleep as somehow an indication that you are neglecting your caregiving responsibilities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Getting ample sleep will only enhance your role as a caregiver. Among other things, you are less likely to take risks, and make mistakes like giving the wrong medication dosage, if you are fully rested, alert and attentive.
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to lie awake, listening for a sign that something is wrong. The problem is that if you don’t allow yourself to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll actually be less alert to a problem once you do nod off. Go to bed knowing you can spring to action if necessary. Consider a baby monitor if that helps you feel less anxious.
MAKE TIME FOR STRESS
It’s nearly impossible to fall asleep with you have worries bouncing around in your head. One solution is to take the time during the day to write down that which is causing anxiety. By putting the thoughts on paper, they are less likely to run through your mind in a continual loop at bedtime.
Find ways to shed stress during the course of your day. One good way is to incorporate exercise and/or meditation into your daily routine. These activities have been proven to ease stress and fight insomnia.
EASE INTO BEDTIME
Begin to switch your body into sleep mode and hour or so before bedtime by engaging in a relaxing activity. Just as children have bedtime rituals like bath, book or lullaby, running through the same activities every night sends important signals to your brain and body that it’s time to shut down. It’s important to dim lights and turn off tech devices as the blue light of the screens can trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime, making it harder to drift off to sleep.
DON’T JUST LAY THERE, GET UP
If it takes more than twenty-five minutes to fall asleep, get up and do something calming. Staying between the sheets will condition you to associate wakefulness with being in bed. This can lead to poor sleep habits like insomnia.
BENEFITS OF GOOD SLEEP
- Brain — Good sleep keeps the brain sharp. Improves memory
- Mood — Poor sleep habits are associated with depression
- Heart — Good sleep reduces risk for cardiovascular disease
- Immune System — Less than seven hours per night can lead to increase risk of the common cold virus
- Weight — Sleep deprivation affects the hormones that regulate appetite.