Caregiving can be mentally and physically taxing, even more so when you’re not getting enough sleep at night. If you find that you aren’t getting adequate sleep because you are up caring for a loved one, follow these simple guidelines to help keep your eyes open the next day:
Recharge with a cold shower
Instead of a warm shower turn the nob to colder water. If you don’t have time for the real deal, you can get a similar boost by just washing your face and hands in cold water. You will feel revitalized and ready to take on the day.
Make energizing food choices
You may crave snacks full of carbohydrates, sugar and salt when you’re sleep-deprived (think cookies, crackers, chips, etc.). Don’t give into these temptations because these foods are just quick-fixes and they will actually result in you crashing. Instead, try a serving of fruit, veggies or nuts. You should also opt for small meals throughout the day because heavy meals can make you feel sluggish. Whatever you decide to eat, be sure to include an ample amount of protein; protein will keep you feeling full the longest and provide the energy you need to help you power through the day.
Drink more fluids, but limit caffeinated beverages
Even mild dehydration can cause weariness. Drinking more water is an easy way to stay alert. Be aware of your caffeine intake because caffeinated beverages can cause you to retain less water, and therefore, contribute to dehydration. While caffeine may keep you going during the day, tripling your regular intake will just lead to another sleepless night.
Take a nap
Adults can take naps too! As long as you can find another person to monitor your loved one, there is nothing wrong with getting some shut-eye for a short period of time. Plus, napping is good for you. Studies have shown that those who nap occasionally have a lower risk for coronary heart disease.
Go for a brisk walk
Heading out for a walk can be both physically and psychologically invigorating. The movement circulates oxygenated blood throughout your body and boosts your metabolism. You may also experience a rush of endorphins that will surely lift your mood and help sustain you.
Make safe decisions
Be aware that you are sleep-deprived and therefore somewhat limited in certain capacities. Some activities to avoid:
- Driving (especially long distances)—driving when drowsy can be as dangerous as drunk driving. If you need to take your loved one to an appointment or run errands for him or her, try to find a friend to help out.
- Drinking alcohol—you’ll likely become even sleepier and unable to perform your caregiving duties adequately.
- Smoking—you may become too relaxed and fall asleep. Too many household fires are caused by someone falling asleep while smoking.
Sleep is an essential component of mental and physical health, but many older adults experience trouble falling asleep and staying asleep as they age. For more information and practical advice to help your senior loved one sleep through the night, we recommend The Senior Sleep Solution, a book from the Home Care Assistance senior wellness series.