Caregivers are often caught between managing their own lives and their caregiving responsibilities. It’s a challenge that usually results in poor nutrition and sleep deprivation for the caregiver. Even a little disturbance in sleep can significantly affect the next day’s activities. The long, pending list of errands can make the caregiver even more exhausted and frustrated! Typically, caregivers are so absorbed with providing care that they tend to neglect themselves, which is detrimental to their well-being.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the adults between 26 and 64 of age should sleep for 7 to 9 hours, while older adults need 7—8 hours of sleep.
Answering these questions may help understand your sleep hygiene
- Do you sleep at least 8 hours every night?
- Do you plan your day to meet your sleep requirements?
- Would you leave a party to get your sleep requirement fulfilled?
- Do you have a fixed sleeping and waking up time?
- Do you consciously consume foods that will help you to get sleep?
- Do you find time to exercise daily?
If the answers to most of the questions are no, then more than anything else, you need to prioritize sleep.
Impact of sleep-deprivation:
Sleep deprivation is quite common among caregivers, and understanding the impact on their health may motivate them to find solutions for a daily good night’s sleep. German researchers have found that short-term sleep deprivation can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac contractility i.e., the degree at which the heart contracts. Lack of sleep also leads to an increase in the production of the cortisol hormone (in response to stress), thus compromising stress handling capacity. Lack of sleep affects everyone – it takes a toll physically (exhaustion, lethargy), emotionally/spiritually (irritability, easily frustrated, the build-up of latent anger), socially (wanting isolation, displaced reactions, emotionally volatile), etc. Lack of sleep makes it difficult for anyone to focus on work and engage empathetically with others. It also affects one’s short term memory. It further reduces any positive feelings to the extent that sleep-deprived people cannot appreciate themselves enough for doing a good job.
All of these, for obvious reasons, complicate the caregiver’s ability to be effective in care or even look after themselves. In addition to the above facts, let us explore the often overlooked, decision-making, and nutrition linked aspects below.
Decision Making: Mindfulness is essential in making sound and smart decisions. The sleep medicine division of Harvard Medical School found that the prefrontal cortex (complex thought processing) of the brain gets impacted with sleep-deprivation, which affects our logical ability to make a decision. Continuous inputs from the doctor and the patient about their health, treatment, change in medication or diet, and other variables require adept decision-making. Hence, sleep is an essential tool for caregivers to enhance their productivity, cognition, and maintain good judgment. Proper rest ensures the productivity of caregivers, helps avoid errors and accidents, and helps continue having an impact.
Caregiver’s Nutrition: When there is a lack of sleep, the body is in constant search for an energy boost, and thus, the body develops sugar cravings. These are satisfied through sugary foods that create an imbalance in the nutrition level.
Sleep hygiene includes practices which a caregiver can use to ensure that they get f sound sleep every day to promote their holistic well-being. Sleep hygiene is not once in a while, only when one is deprived of sleep or low on health but something that has to be practiced daily.
Let us look at some sleep hygiene rituals which can be put to practice. It doesn’t require a lot of effort but only dedicated self-care:
- Set a fixed bedtime: One cannot go to bed just anytime and hope for a restful sleep through sleep-deprived. A fixed bedtime routine enables the brain to automatically send a signal to the body so do pan to go to bed after 2-3 hours of your dinner and not later than 11 pm11 pm
- No stimulants before bedtime: Avoid drinking beverages that contain caffeine, including green tea. National Sleep Foundation has found that alcohol is known to make one sleep faster, but it can also disrupt sleep as the body starts processing alcohol after a few hours of its consumption. It can result in extra bathroom trips disrupt the REM cycle of sleep, thus making you wake-up disoriented and groggy.
- Avoiding acidic foods: Foods that cause acidity or acid reflux can keep one awake at night. Consciously avoiding fatty foods, baked goods, pasta, refined sugars, and junk foods is recommended, but it is an individual choice. Always have your dinner at least 2 hours before your bedtime and include a glass of warm milk, nuts, and fruits Diet plays a significant role in generating sound sleep, and you must incorporate this to your sleep hygiene to enjoy restful nights.
- Long walk(s): The body can be rested better when it is tired, as recommended by Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer. A person struggling with sleep must walk before going to bed. Walking also diverts the mind from caregiving (get disengaged) and tires the body (prepare to sleep). If walking is not your preference, then try out other aerobic exercises such as -cycling, spot jogging, bedtime yoga, or even easy to do home workouts.
- Mind conditioning for bedtime: Bedtime is crucial “me” time for caregivers’ self-care. This allows time to reflect, plan, and reorganize. Sometimes, this introspection may upset them unless mindfully focused on rest and relaxation. Bedtime is not for self-blame, resentment, or regret. Alternatives like playing soft music, reading a book, or a warm shower can help the body recognize that it is time to sleep.
- Aromatherapy: Light foot massage can relax the nerves on the feet. The components of lavender oil can induce sleep with its aroma. After a session of bedtime yoga, lavender oil can relax you after an exhausting day. It is scientifically proven that the aroma of different substrates can stimulate sleep. The list includes Lavender, Vanilla, Valerian Extract, Sandalwood, Juniper, Lemon, Bergamot, Frankincense, and many, amongst others.
- Daytime naps: Many caregivers prefer taking shorter daytime naps to compensate for the night-time sleep.
- A short nap can help address exhaustion but still may not adequately improve mood, alertness, or decision-making. Naps cannot be a substitute for the night-time sleep of 7 to 9 hours but always can be useful.
Leveraging Afternoon Naps Effectively
Cristiano Ronaldo talks about how afternoon naps have improved his performance, and short naps are beneficial for caregivers to improve
- Cardiac health and is beneficial for BP patients
- Hormonal balance in the body
- Digestive system and fat loss
- Muscle recovery (address the physical strain of caregivers)
The best time to take an afternoon nap is after lunch between 1 and 3 pm, keeping at least an hour’s gap after lunch. One must lie down in a fetal position on the left side (Vamkuskhi). The recommended duration for a nap is between 10 and 30 minutes. However, elderly or ill caregivers can extend their rest up to 90 minutes.
What to avoid?
Despite following the right rituals, there may be some things that are not helpful. Hence, here is a reminder of the things to avoid for improving your sleep:
- Naps beyond 4 pm
- Stimulants like tea, coffee, chocolate or cigarettes post-lunch
- Watching TV or browsing on the mobile (exciting the senses)
- Stretching beyond 30 minutes of naptime
With proper scheduling and following these sleep rituals, a caregiver can enhance their well-being and quality of care by also taking care of their health. With small-yet-mindful efforts, you can start enjoying deep and sound sleep. Remember that even though sleep may not appear to be the cause of your irritation, mood swings, and all-day tiredness, you will notice improvements once the sleep cycle is back on track.
About The Author
I always work on a belief that “Always be in action”. I am a M.Sc food
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