When adequate sleep becomes a nightly struggle it drains energy and can drastically affect a person’s health, mood and daily functioning. Sleep deprivation is common among family caregivers because of the physical and emotional stress of caring for another, often while maintaining the responsibilities of children, work and home.
People who have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep may be dealing with the sleep disorder called insomnia. Symptoms of insomnia also can include waking up too early in the morning or feeling unrefreshed upon waking. Insomnia is classified as either short-term or chronic when it lasts at least three nights a week for a month or longer. Some 60 million Americans are affected by insomnia each year, but the following steps can help safeguard against erratic sleep:
- Discuss recurrent sleep problems with your doctor. Certain medical conditions such as chronic pain, breathing difficulties, frequent urination, gastro-esophageal reflux disease and an overactive thyroid can lead to insomnia. Special sleep testing and sleep aids can help alleviate underlying causes of insomnia.
- Adjust caffeine and energy drink consumption. Caffeine is a major culprit in disrupting sleep. To regain regular sleep, it helps to eliminate caffeine completely or avoid caffeine consumption after 2 p.m.
- Incorporate exercise into every day. Research shows that exercise during the day promotes better sleep at night. Even a brief 10-minute walk outside or climbing stairs inside can improve nightly rest.
- Unwind tight muscles before sleep with a warm bath or shower and gentle upper-body stretches or yoga.
- Reduce environmental factors like light, noise and extreme temperatures that interfere with sleep.
- Regularly ask for help from others. Enlisting other family members, friends and in-home caregivers to help with meals, chores and health needs reduces stress and aids in restful sleep.
Which insomnia remedies do you find most helpful when caring for your aging loved one?