June 6, 2018
Caregiver sleep is a hot topic around our house so If I Need Help asked Ellie Porter from the Sleep Help Institute if they could share some important tips about sleep. Ellie asked Amy Highland one of their awesome sleep experts to write a guest blog for us. Here it is. Get ready to get a good night sleep tonight!
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How to Get Better Caregiver Sleep Despite the Stress
While many parents and caregivers find joy in their role, at times it can be a challenge, especially if you’re not getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep. Caregiver Sleep plays an important role in your mental and emotional health, yet it can be elusive with the stress of caring for someone with special needs. You can help yourself get more rest by developing good sleep hygiene and healthy stress management skills.
Develop Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene includes all the habits and behaviors in your life that contribute to the quality of your sleep. Healthy sleep starts in a bedroom devoted to creating a supportive sleep atmosphere. At night, that means keeping the room dark, quiet, and cool with the temperature between 60 to 68 degrees. Your mattress should support your preferred sleep position – stomach, back, side – so your sleep isn’t disrupted by aches and/or pains. Check mattress reviews to see if you’re sleeping on the best one for your needs.Your behavior during the day and close to bedtime greatly affects your ability to fall and stay asleep. A few sleep support habits that can improve the quality of your sleep include:
- Keeping a Regular Bedtime: Your body relies on regular 24-hour biological and physiological cycles called circadian rhythms to time your sleep-wake cycle. A consistent sleep schedule helps your body acclimate itself to your natural rhythms and correctly time the release of sleep hormones.
- A Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Like a regular bedtime, a bedtime routine helps signal your body that it’s time to fall asleep. Any activity that leaves you feeling calm and relaxed makes a good addition to your routine. Try to start the routine at the same time and in the same order each night.
- Turning Off Screens Early: The bright light from televisions, smartphones, and other electronic devices suppresses the release of melatonin. Try to shut off your screens at least two to three hours before bed to prevent a delay in the onset of sleep.
Incorporate Stress Management Methods
For most people, stress cannot be avoided, and that’s especially true for caregivers. However, there are strategies that can help alleviate, manage, and control your stress.
- Meditation: In a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, participants who practiced mindfulness meditation reported 33 percent less stress while noting an increase in their overall well-being. Two months after the conclusion of the study, participants still reported having less stress. Meditation teaches the mind to focus on present sensations rather than the anxiety-causing past or future. While 15 to 20 minutes of meditation is best, in as little as 5 minutes per day you can start to see some benefits.
- Yoga: A study conducted at UCLA found that after eight weeks of a 12-minute daily yoga practice, participants showed “a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.” Stress causes inflammation, which means that a reduction in inflammation often results from a reduction in stress.
- Writing It Out: A journal next to your bed gives you a chance to write down thoughts that may keep you awake. For some people, it may be as simple as having a place to list tasks that need to be remembered. Others benefit from writing down stressful events from the day followed by their emotional responses. Yet others, benefit from having somewhere to record thankfulness and gratitude.
Together, good caregiver sleep hygiene and stress management can help you get the rest you need and take better care of yourself. By taking care of yourself, you’re maintaining the health you need to care for those closest to you too.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.