To adequately take care of others, we must take care of ourselves and this starts with getting enough sleep and rest. If like many carers, you find it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep, you are likely suffering from sleep deprivation and feeling lousy as a result. The reasons for sleep deprivation can be caused by disrupted sleep from the person we are caring for to finding sleep difficult because of ongoing stress and anxiety.
For each person, finding what relaxes us is the most important thing. While in the list below, number 2 can be a cause of sleeplessness in some, for others it may provide a valuable tool to quieten an overactive mind. Streaming services such as Netflix provide easy and advertisement free entertainment in the comfort of your own home. This is particularly attractive if you are restricted from going out because of your caring role.
Keeping an appreciation, worries, or to do journal can also help those who have an overactive mind, jotting down things that need to be done and things you are grateful for can prove helpful to rest your mind in the evening. Others techniques may include the use of mindfulness and meditation, listening to the radio and music, reading books and magazines or playing solo games on apps like Wordscapes, Happy Color and 4 Pics 1 Word.
It is worth taking some the time to find out what works for you and creating a routine that helps you reset for the next day.
10 Ways To Improve Your Sleep:
- Create a restful environment – A dark, quiet and cool bedroom signals to your brain it’s time to wind down.
- Limit screen time – Avoid iPads, mobiles, laptops and television at least one hour before bed. They emit blue light which the brain perceives as daylight. (i-devices have a night shift mode which alters the colours of your display after dark also).
- Establish a bedtime routine – Doing a calming activity an hour before bedtime trains the brain to know when it’s time for bed. Try a warm bath or shower, light stretches or reading a book by soft light. Avoid anything stressful. If something is on your mind, jot it down.
- Ditch the stimulants – Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least six hours before bedtime as they accelerate the heart rate and blood pressure.
- Don’t count sheep – If after twenty minutes in bed, you’re struggling to fall asleep, go to another room and do something relaxing for half an hour. Remember to dim the lights and avoid screens.
- Consistent sleep and wake times – Try to wake up and go to bed as close to the same time each day as possible, even on the weekends.
- Keep evening meals light – Heavy, spicy, acidic or fatty foods within two hours of bedtime can trigger or aggravate indigestion, acid reflux and heart burn. If you are hungry, snack on yoghurt, nuts or a banana.
- Time your exercise right – As little as 10 minutes of daily cardio can increase the amount of deep, restorative stages of sleep. Avoid strenuous activity at least two hours before bedtime.
- Balance fluid intake – Hydration is important. Too little and you’ll wake through the night thirsty and too much, you’ll be disrupted by the urge to go to the bathroom. Remember to empty your bladder one last time before bed to avoid being woken up.
- Let there be light – Adequate sunlight exposure helps us stay in tune with natural day-night rhythms connected to our internal body clock. The light will help to wake you up and maintain energy levels.
Adapted from ‘The Hidden Risks of Sleep Deprivation’ Carer News 2019 Edition 2