What are caregiver sleep problems?
Sleep problems include insomnia (the inability to fall or stay asleep), hypersomnia (problems staying awake), and poor quality sleep. Sleep problems can change the way you think and feel. If you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, you may feel tired, irritable, and/or jittery. You may not feel like doing anything—even things that are usually enjoyable.
Caregivers often have sleep problems. You may be getting up during the night to help the patient. Or, you may be staying up late to get things done. Depression, anxiety or fatigue from caregiving can cause sleep problems.
What can I do about my sleep problems?
Here are tips for getting a good night sleep:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Use your bed for sleeping only. Don’t watch TV, read, or pay bills in bed.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, comfortable, and at a consistent temperature. Try a radio, fan, or mood music to filter out noises.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. If you are hungry at night, try a light snack with warm milk.
- Get help with caregiving.
- Get exercise during the day (but not right before bed).
- Take a warm bath an hour before going to bed.
- Try to deal with problems or worries during the day, and set them aside when you go to bed.
- Avoid tobacco. Nicotine is a stimulant.
- Avoid caffeine after 3 pm, including coffee, colas, black teas, and chocolate.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Try relaxation exercises or meditation before bed.
- Ask others to avoid calling when you’re usually asleep unless it’s an emergency.
- Ask someone to give you a backrub or foot massage at the end of the day.
- If sleep medications are prescribed, follow directions carefully.
Here are some additional tips if you are sleeping too much (more than 12 hours per day):
- Avoid boredom. Distract yourself with hobbies or other activities when you feel sleepy during the day.
- Avoid sweets.
- Avoid peanuts and dairy products, which can make you sluggish.
When should I talk to my doctor about my sleep problems?
Talk to your doctor if you have:
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Frequent nightmares
- Confusion on waking
- Frequent waking during the night
- Inability to get back to sleep after waking
- Inability to carry out daily activities
- Sleep problems lasting longer than three weeks
- Overuse of sleep medication