Sleeping through the night is a luxury for many caregivers whether caring for a chronically ill restless spouse or parenting an infant that is frequently up during the wee hours. Self-monitoring with self-awareness can help you get the sleep you need using the tool of Acknowledging, Assessing, Assisting.
Acknowledge: Sleep is vital for physical and mental well being. Your reality may be loss of sleep due to loss of control of the situation you are living in. For instance, it is impossible to sleep when you are living with a family member who has moderate stage dementia and who is consistently getting up in the middle of the night to wander away from home. On the other hand, the loss of sleep may not be due to the care recipients’ behavior at all. Other factors can influence sleep such as the caregiver’s physical condition of arthritis or side effects from medication. Even when the care recipient is sleeping well, the caregivers may be tossing and turning with worry that prevents them from getting that needed sleep.
If you are not getting the sleep you need, assess the situation so you may be better able to assist.
Assess it for yourself by answering the following questions:
- Are you losing sleep?
- Is your physical energy affected due to loss of sleep?
- Is your mood affected due to loss of sleep?
- Are you losing sleep due to loss of control of the situation you are living in?
- Is the loss of sleep related to being awakened by the person you are caregiving?
- Is the loss of sleep related to a fretful mind full of thoughts that just will not turn off?
- Would getting sleep help your physical and mental well being?
- In the past, have you made sleep a priority?
- Acknowledging the value of sleep, do you want to make sleep a priority?
- Is loss of sleep temporary or is there no end in sight?
- Are you going to help yourself to sleep better?
- Are there supports and resources you can use?
- What could help lull you to sleep?
Assist: After assessing, you may have come to acknowledge that it is not the person that you are caring for that is keeping you awake at night as much as it is you. Consulting with your doctor is warranted if you suspect that you are not sleeping due to your physical condition or if it could be related to side effects from medication. You may be having difficulty turning off your thoughts. You may be thinking sabotaging thoughts like “I am never going to get a good nights sleep ever again” The good news is you can gain control of this situation by working at turning off your thoughts or changing the thought to “I can help myself get the sleep I need”.
Can’t Sleep? Don’t Freak!
By just remaining calm, you are assisting yourself, gaining control. You are preventing your negative self sabotaging thoughts from infesting your mind. Staying calm is restful, which is the the next best thing to sleep. While in a state of calm, try different strategies to lull you to sleep such as breathing exercises or listening to your favorite calming music, If you do not have a favorite, discover new calming music..
Make your bed the place you sleep or rest. If the fretting and racing thoughts persist, get a handle on it and get out of bed. Pick a fretting space in your home, outside of your bedroom where your racing thoughts can go wild. Go there to fret. Make this a space you are not regularly spending time. Instead of fretting at the kitchen table, choose a space that you rarely occupy. The reason not to use a space you frequently occupy is because you do not want to associate this space in your home to your fretting. When you are ready to stop and get back to sleep, return to your bed.
In cases where it is the person you are caring for that is keeping you awake at night, is it possible to get a relief person, paid or unpaid to get up with your family member so that you can sleep?. Arranging regular shifts if possible is optimum. Instead of a one night only make the shift for a few nights in a row.
Getting enough sleep is necessary in order to carry out the caregiving role. If there seems to be no end in sight, it may be time to consider different care plan options such as live-in help or long term care. If the problem persists and daily coping is challenging, reach out for help. It is not a weakness to reach out for help, it is a strength with a reward – sleep.