Difficulty falling asleep? Trouble sleeping through the night? Your role as a caregiver may be creating a mental burden that can interfere with your sleep and cause fatigue. Here are some ideas to help you sleep better.

Whether it is the announcement of the diagnosis, the evolution of the disease, the uncertainty, the sometimes difficult behaviours of the person you are caring for or the conciliation with your professional and social life, there are many reasons why your sleep may be affected by your role as a caregiver.

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Sleep is disturbed

Caring for someone in addition to all the other tasks of daily life can be very time consuming. If your nights feel unrefreshing because of the caregiving or worrying you're doing, you may feel tired, sleepy or lack energy. This is completely understandable.

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The importance of sleep in your daily life

On average, the number of hours of sleep per night for an adult (18 to 65 years old) is between seven and nine hours, while for a person over 65 years old, it is between seven and eight hours, taking naps into account.

Besides feeling tired, lack of sleep has negative effects on different areas of your life, including your attention span, memory and concentration, as well as your mood, judgment and creativity. If you don't get the sleep you need, it can affect your mental and physical health.

Taking care of someone day and night is very demanding. Is this the case for you?

So how can you reclaim the basic need for a good night's sleep? What can you do to avoid periods of sleeplessness, worry or frustration, which can lead to exhaustion?

Sleep is different for each person, so here are some practical tips and tricks. Try them out to see if they work for you!

5 general tips to help you sleep better

  1. Go to bed as soon as you feel tired, and keep the same bedtime and wake-up schedule, if possible
  2. Regularly engage in physical activity (except in the evening) if you can, as this helps promote sleep
  3. Turn off electronics and screens at least one hour before bedtime
  4. Create your own rituals to relax before bed (e.g., reading, listening to music, meditation)
  5. If you can, take a 20-minute nap during the day

Other general tips include Sleep On It and Passeport Santé.

Successful sleep tips for caregivers

Some sleep difficulties may also be more typical among caregivers. These include increased anxiety, interrupted nights and intense pressure.

Here are some tips to help you sleep better:

  • Make a list of things you are concerned about or things you need to do during the day to get them out of your head;
  • If you need to accompany someone overnight, see if another family member can cover for you for one or a few nights;
  • Try to identify how the person you are caring for is reacting to intense activity. Then find ways to soothe their senses so that you have some breathing room at different times of the day;
  • If it is reassuring to you in your situation: use an intercom system if necessary to monitor the person you are caring for;
  • Externalize negative thoughts by writing them down or talking to someone you trust;
  • Ask for help: respite services, long-term care facilities;
  • Seek out a support group to discuss your situation, in order to reduce stress and anxiety;
  • See a doctor, there may be a physical problem underlying the caregiving role;
  • Perhaps keeping a sleep diary to get an overall picture can help you in your progress (to be completed over two weeks and repeated two months later).
Luc-Laberge-profil- chercheur-sommeil-horloge-biologique

Researcher in neuropsychology at ÉCOBES - Recherche et transfert (Cégep de Jonquière), specialized in sleep and the biological clock

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