by Sara Westgreen
Caregiving is associated with sleep loss, which can put caregivers at a higher risk of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, altered immune functioning, and depression. Combined with stress, sleep loss is associated with increased severity of fatigue, negative mood, and cognitive impairment.
Sleep Deprivation Among Caregivers
It’s common for caregivers to be both stressed and sleep deprived. Research reports 88 percent of caregivers have increased stress or anxiety from caregiving. Sleep deprivation is an issue for 77 percent of caregivers.
Stress can be a source of sleep deprivation. Among American adults, 43 percent report stress keeps them up at night. And sleep deprivation can feed stress, too, with 21 percent of adults reporting feeling more stress when they don’t get enough sleep. Overall, adults who sleep less than eight hours each night report higher stress levels than those who get adequate sleep.
In addition to a higher risk of chronic health conditions, not getting enough sleep can result in feeling sluggish, lazy, or irritable. Caregivers may have trouble concentrating or feel no motivation to take care of responsibilities.
Better Sleep For Caregivers
Sleep is important for everyone, but caregivers in particular need adequate sleep each night. With good sleep, caregivers can manage stress and energy levels, and face each day more prepared to handle daily life and responsibilities. Healthy sleep habits and a priority on sleep can improve sleep for caregivers.
- Get exercise. Caregiving often means time spent inside, but getting out and being active is good for the circadian rhythm. Caregivers should spend time outside exercising or walking to reinforce a healthy biological clock.
- Follow a regular sleep routine. A consistent sleep routine is helpful for maintaining healthy sleep. The body thrives on routines, so when caregivers go to sleep and wake up around the same time each night and day, it helps maintain a good circadian rhythm. And a regularly-followed bedtime routine can be helpful for feeling sleepy at the right time.
- Take time for relaxation. Caregiving can be stressful, but there are outlets to relieve stress. It’s a good idea to practice relaxation, including yoga, meditation, or simply engaging in enjoyable activities.
- Be careful with caffeine. Fatigued caregivers may rely on coffee throughout the day to stay alert, but coffee and other sources of caffeine should be avoided starting in the afternoon and especially at night.
- Get treatment for sleep disorders. Sleep disorders are more serious than a few nights of rough sleep, and they can be debilitating for caregivers who can’t get the rest necessary to offer needed support. It’s important to get treatment for sleep disorders, which may include breathing treatments, behavioral therapy, or medication.
Caregivers may deal with stress and fatigue on a regular basis, but it’s possible – and essential – for caregivers to sleep well at night. Practicing healthy sleep habits can be helpful for facing each day fresh and energized.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com and a guest blogger for iCare Health Network. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.
Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.
Tuck is not affiliated with iCare Health Network. Several iCare Health Network skilled nursing facilities offer in-house sleep studies, performed right in the resident’s room while they receive skilled nursing and rehab care.