What Do Cupcakes and Naps Have to Do With Caregiver Stress?
Terri Guillemets has said, “A day without a nap is like a cupcake without frosting.”
And that got me to thinking… What does it mean?
Is the day less fun, less sweet, less complete without a nap?
Or is it more simple, like naps can relieve stress, just like maybe a frosted cupcake did as a child?
Wouldn’t it be great if something as simple as a frosted cupcake could solve the problems of care partners?
Well, they can represent a way to add a little fun to your day. And fun is too often in short supply in caregiving. Fun can help relieve caregiver stress.
Fun is often associated with laughter, which reduces stress hormone levels. After all, how can you feel stressed when laughing? You can’t. Power naps are also associated with reducing stress.
Naps for adults are something I’ve known for a long time can help relieve stress and refresh the spirit and body.
When I was a kid, my dad used to stretch out on the sofa after supper. For his job he often drove all over the state, sometimes working long days. Irregular hours were a part of his life.
When he was home he’d often fall asleep during the news, waking when it ended or shortly thereafter. It became so frequent we lovingly called it his “Nightly News Nap.” He’d catch up on the sleep he might have missed the day before, and awaken refreshed, ready to tackle the evening’s activities.
And you know what?
Dad was right.
Research shows that drivers who get less than 6 hours of sleep are 3 times more likely to have a car accident.
One of the recommendations to prevent this is a power nap.
What’s a power nap?
It’s a nap lasting about 20 minutes, usually in the afternoon.
How can power naps reduce caregiver stress?
Research shows power naps:
- Increase alertness…
- Reduce stress and…
- Improve brain functioning.
Power naps increase alertness so you can stay on top of everything. When you’re a caregiver you often have your caregiver responsibilities on top of your regular responsibilities. And in caregiving it’s important to be alert for subtle changes.
Your loved one may forget to tell you something important. Or maybe she can no longer tell you she doesn’t feel well, she just loses her appetite or gets more irritable.
Whether you’re keeping track of multiple medications, multiple appointments, what she’s eating, or all three plus more – you need to be alert.
Power naps also reduce your stress… and caregiver stress is a major risk of caregiving.
And one cause of increased caregiver stress may be fatigue from being up at night. Maybe you’re caring for someone who doesn’t sleep well or maybe just wakeful because you’re on alert listening for them.
Studies show that by mid-afternoon it’s normal to need a brief nap. And if the person you’re caring for is napping or has another person caring for them, it may be the perfect time for you to grab a quick nap.
When you’re tired it’s easier to lose your patience. And if you’re losing your patience for your family or the one you’re caring for, you may also have guilt for losing your patience.
Which creates a vicious cycle of exhaustion, anger and guilt. Added together they increase your caregiver stress.
And power naps can decrease stress helping you break that cycle.
Power naps can improve your brain functioning.
When you’re thinking clearly you can make better decisions – including knowing when to seek help. Plus it’s easier to keep on top of your responsibilities, finances and everything you need to do.
When you’re feeling stressed and tired from lack of sleep at night, maybe a power nap will help.
And maybe a frosted cupcake will add a little fun to your day!
A HEART PLANTM is a plan that gently guides you in ways to reduce your caregiver stress and helps you more than survive – to thrive – in caregiving.
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To your Happy & Healthy Caregiving,
Ina Gilmore MD
Global Purple Angel Dementia Ambassador