How Caregivers Can Deal With Stress Related Insomnia
Imagine a 50-year-old man caring for his elderly mother. His mother lives in a retirement community and has support services for meals, bathing, and other basic tasks, but she still has an intense need for family support.
Her son works full time, but he takes time in the evenings and on the weekends to help her shop for groceries, pay bills, do laundry, clean, and manage the other tasks of daily life. Just six months ago, he helped her downsize from the family home into a small apartment, a process that took months. He frequently has to take time off of work to transport her to and from doctors’ offices.
He’s happy to help his mother and thankful that some of her care is managed by the retirement community. However, caregiving has proven expensive and draining. He is strained at work from taking time off for appointments, and he struggles to maintain personal time on evenings and weekends.
He strives to find enough time to sleep — but even when he has enough time to sleep, he finds that it’s often difficult to slow down, relax, and get the rest he needs to feel refreshed in the morning.
This man is suffering from caregiver insomnia. It’s common among all levels of caregivers because caregiving, while rewarding, can also be draining and stressful.
Stress and Sleep
Stress can have a significant effect on sleep. Insomniacs typically have greater stress, and anxiety can lead to insomnia as well. On particularly anxious days, caregivers may experience a spike in insomnia.
At the same time, a lack of sleep influences stress. It can make you perceive more stress, which translates into higher stress levels.
How Caregivers Can Get Better Sleep
- Set boundaries. Consider how you can reduce your workload, such as batching household chores into one day instead of two, or scheduling doctor appointments back to back. This can give you more time to yourself while still fulfilling your duties as a caregiver.
- Ask for help. Many states are offering programs to support working family caregivers. These programs offer financial stipends for caregivers who have to take time off of work to care for a family member. The money can be used for caregiving supplies, lost wages, or to hire support.
- Maintain healthy sleep habits. Stick to the same sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each night and day. Create a consistent bedtime routine that you follow each night before bed. By creating these patterns, you’ll give your brain and body signals that it’s time to go to sleep and wind down.
- Create a healthy sleep environment. Your bedroom should be quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. Use blackout curtains and a white noise machine to keep your room quiet and dark, or consider using a fan for white noise, which can also help you stay cool at night. Choose an appropriate mattress and pillows that meet your needs for comfort and support.
Use stress relief techniques. Before bed and throughout the day, give yourself time to relieve stress with meditation, yoga, and other therapeutic approaches. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can support stress relief as well.
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