Caring for a Loved One? Don’t Forget to Sleep on the Job!

Do you think you get enough sleep? The answer might surprise you! While the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night, millions of Americans struggle to get by on far less than that.
For those taking care of a senior family member, the problem can be even more pronounced. At Home Instead Senior Care serving the southeast Valley, we have heard from many family caregivers that the added responsibility of caring for another adult, coupled with stress and, in some cases, the sleeplessness of the senior themselves, have whittled the amount of z’s they get down to zilch.
But sleep isn’t a luxury you can afford to miss out on: it is a crucial component to health and vitality. Numerous studieslink prolonged lack of sleep to everything from an increased risk of catching the common cold to certain kinds of cancer to diabetes to earlier death. It cannot only contribute to obesity due to changes in the levels of appetite hormones, it can also actually make you crave and eat more high-calorie, high-carb foods. It can cause irreversible brain cell death. And, of course, it can make you short-tempered and edgy.
Obviously, getting your eight hours is easier said than done when there are so many demands on your time. Some family caregivers even feel guilty for prioritizing their own sleep when each 24-hour day has roughly 30-hours worth of things to do.
Think of it this way, though: if you get sick, if your judgment is impaired or if you’re stressed out and snappish, it’s not only you who suffers. It impacts everyone around you, including the person or people for whom you are caring.
The other bad news is that sleeplessness can be a pattern that’s hard to break. You can find some great tips to try to stop the cycle of insomnia at Caregiver Stress:
• Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. If you can’t eliminate these all together, set a cut-off point and avoid them in the evening.
• Keep your bedroom clear of clutter, which can distract and agitate you.
• Keep a journal. If you have trouble shutting your brain off at night, take time before bed to write down your thoughts.
• Find your ideal sleep atmosphere. A cool, dark, and quiet room is typically recommended for good sleep. Avoid bright lights and invest in a white noise machine if there are noises disturbing your sleep.
• If your insomnia is due to an aging loved one requiring help during the night, consider bringing in a paid caregiver a few nights a week.
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