Caregiver stress can be related to sleep deprivation or sleep loss.
Have you noticed being more irritable after a loss of sleep?
You’re not alone. Sleep deprivation can lead to more than increased irritability. Because the immune system that fights inflammation and infections work best at night, sleep disruption can impair their activity and lead to health issues.
With the problems and issues you face on a daily basis while giving care, sleep loss can easily lead to increased caregiver stress. And the problems associated with it.
Your body needs the rest and restoration from sleep.
Sleeping for your Health
It may not be that hard for you to believe, but the quality of your sleep matters for more than just how tired you will or won’t be when you wake up. Drugs aren’t the answer, because they’ll just put you to bed, they don’t help you rest and restore your body. If buying a white (or rain) noise machine doesn’t sound appealing to you, watch this video to learn more about how you can set the stage to give your body the uninterrupted and restorative sleep it needs.
Dr. Perlmutter’s suggestions are practical and simple. His two minute video is well worth the time. If you are not reading this on Caregiving With Purpose, click here to view the video.
Why do sleep disruptions increase your caregiver stress?
- Sleep deprivation and disruptions interrupt the natural restorative function of sleep. Your body is not functioning optimally and you may find yourself increasing frustrated, irritated and even short tempered. All of which can make you more likely to feel stressed and react negatively to it.
- Sleep is where your immune system works best. So when your sleep is disrupted, you are more susceptible to colds and other contagious diseases. Your immune system also protects you from other diseases and inflammation, and you may have additional health issues from stress.
- When you’re tired from lack of sleep, it can be hard to think clearly and quickly. So you may feel stressed from making decisions and dealing with the unexpected. Sleep disruption can lead to errors in judgment and mistakes.
What can you do to get a better night’s sleep?
Take stimulants like caffeine and do stimulating activity early in the day. Dr. Perlmutter’s video suggests moving caffeine intake, medications that may prevent sleep and exercise to before noon. You may have other situations you can move to early in the day, such as something you do at work or activities that require exertion although you ay not consider them “exercise.” Be sure to check with your doctor about the proper time to do these activities and take medications.
Slow down in the evening. In addition to actively avoiding stimulants and stimulating situations at night, you can also help your body to relax by actively planning relaxing activities. This may be a good time to do a craft like knotting or crocheting. You could also do any number of activities that trigger the relaxation response. Click here for a list of activities that have been found to elicit it.
Avoid very late meals. Eating your supper or dinner earlier in the evening may allow your body time to digest your meal before sleep. And a lighter meal may also be of benefit.
Simple steps can make a difference and reduce caregiver stress.
Leave a comment to share how you reduce caregiver stress.
From my heart to yours… Laugh Well, Love Well and Live Well!
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”