Written by: Katie Kotteman
Updated March 24, 2021
Caring for other people can be rewarding, but it can also impact your ability to have healthy and consistent sleep. A caregiver spends many hours each day taking care of others, but they may find it difficult to destress enough to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Studies have shown that the more caregiving responsibilities (1) someone has, the less likely they are to get adequate sleep. This lack of sleep for caregivers can sometimes result in negative effects on mental health and quality of life (2). Often, caregivers are balancing work (3), family, and many other responsibilities that can impact their ability to get adequate sleep.
Getting consistent and quality sleep each night is essential to mental and physical health. It’s important to know why being a caregiver can affect sleep and the steps you can take to improve your sleep quality.
Why Does Caregiving Affect Sleep?
Being responsible for the care of a sick loved one is not easy. In fact, researchers have labeled this strain as caregiver burden (4). This term indicates that those in caregiving positions experience the stress of caring for loved ones in many aspects of life, including mental and physical health. Because caregivers spend so much time giving, they sometimes neglect to take care of themselves.
Here are some reasons that caregiving may impact sleep:
- Stress: Feeling stressed and finding it difficult to relax can negatively impact (5) your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also impact the way you feel throughout the day and how you interact with others.
- Night Care: Depending on the patient’s medical condition, a caregiver may experience nighttime sleep disturbances. For example, a caregiver caring for someone with dementia (6) may experience sleep disruption by association, as waking at night is a symptom of dementia.
- Lack of Resources: Often, caregiving can feel like a lonely process. Although there may be community resources available (7), they aren’t always convenient or accessible. Taking on so many responsibilities in addition to caregiving doesn’t always offer enough time for much-needed sleep.
How Can I Get More Sleep as a Caregiver?
Because of the positive psychological benefits of receiving quality sleep as a caregiver, it is important to focus on improving your sleep routine. The following suggestions may help you improve your sleep quality:
- De-Stress During the Day: Trying to make time throughout the day to de-stress while also caring for a loved one might be difficult. But it is essential to prioritize your relaxation at some point in the day. It may be helpful to spend a few minutes doing mindfulness meditation or yoga (8). Feeling less stressed throughout the day will set you up for better sleep at night.
- Sleep Hygiene: Creating a relaxing bedroom, having a regular sleep schedule, exercising during the day, and avoiding stimulants are all part of maintaining sleep hygiene. Receiving instruction about how to improve sleep hygiene (9) can help caregivers get better sleep quality.
- Relaxation Techniques: If you care for someone who has insomnia or wakes throughout the night, it may be beneficial for you to focus on how to quickly fall back asleep. Deep breathing (10) and meditation (11) are two techniques you can consider to help ease you back to sleep.
- Ask for Help: Caregiving is stressful but rewarding. Sometimes it can be hard to ask for help when you’re used to being the helper. But studies show that caregivers’ mental health improves when they ask people close to them (12) for help and when they visit a trusted doctor (13) for advice and care.
When you care for others, sometimes it can be difficult to make time to care for yourself. But getting consistent, quality sleep can help improve your mental and physical health as well as positively impact your ability to care for your loved one. Make time to destress, prioritize sleep, and ask for help when you need it.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31336559/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32597344/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29255364/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33195757/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26307483/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32854627/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26062925/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/stress Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31441938/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000874.htm Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27180934/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28393543/ Accessed on March 22, 2021.