Getting the Sleep You Need
When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? Most sleep experts recommend clocking between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted, restorative sleep each night. But we know the demands of your caregiving role don’t always make that possible. And, as you continue to build up sleep debt, it can affect your blood pressure, heart health, weight, moods and mental health.
Implement the following suggestions to get some much-needed rest:
- Set the right mood. Create a sleep-friendly environment. This includes making your room dark, quiet, cool and comfortable. Your bedroom is for sleeping — not for watching TV or doing work. Avoid unnatural light sources at night, such as the blue light of your phone and the LED displays on many electronics. Invest in a sleep mask (or even blue-blocking glasses) to decrease exposure.
- Limit your worrying. Caregiving is demanding both mentally and emotionally, and this can keep your wheels turning all night. Set boundaries to ensure you get some quiet time. To address caregiver’s guilt, you may need to expand your circle of support by enlisting other family members or professionals to ensure they receive the care they need when you’re unavailable.
Try listening to soothing music, a sleep-themed podcast or guided meditation to usher in a feeling of relaxation. (Set its timer for 30 minutes to prevent the sounds from waking you during the night.) A light spray of lavender on your pillow may also have a calming effect.
- Stick to a consistent schedule. Regulate your internal clock by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. (Yes, even on days off.) Following the same routine, especially when synched with light cycles, can help you train your brain to fall asleep and wake more easily.
- Monitor your food and drink intake. Give yourself time to digest by leaving two to three hours between your final meal and bedtime. Also, avoid caffeine, including chocolate and soda, late in the day. (A brisk walk or other exercise can give you an energy boost to combat that afternoon slump.) While alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, it’s proven to disrupt sleep during the second half of the night. If you’d like a beverage to help you wind down, try chamomile tea or warm milk.
If you can’t resolve your sleeplessness, talk to your doctor. He or she can suggest other strategies for restorative sleep and can evaluate you for health conditions that may be hurting your sleep.