There is nothing new about the fact that we need sleep to function at our best. It’s not news that caring for someone, whether that be a sick or disabled child, an aging spouse, or a parent, getting enough sleep is difficult. Without adequate sleep, a caregiver’s health may suffer. 87% of caregivers say their energy and sleep have worsened as a result of tending to someone. Caregiving is a 24/7 job with few breaks. We know this, so what’s the solution? Right?

Set Yourself Up For Success

Aim to go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time each day. Our bodies respond to routine. Farmers will tell you that they still wake up at the same crazy early hour for years because their body has become so accustomed to rising at that hour when they retire. Routine and habit forming is essential for your body and your sanity.

Use the last hour before you go to bed winding down. Play calming music, read a devotional or other calming literature, work on a crossword puzzle, or prepare to close the day, such as picking up newspapers or getting the coffeemaker ready to push the start button in the morning. Spoil yourself with a soothing bath. You know what helps you relax!

But if you hit the hay and your mind is still active, get up and do something calming. Work on a hobby or read a book. It’s better to stay off any electronics, even TV or your phone. If you stay between the sheets, you unconsciously train your body to associate wakefulness with being in bed. I sometimes pray while in bed to calm my mind, and it usually relaxes my body. (experts would probably not recommend this unless the house is cold, such as in the winter)

Make time for stress during the day. Take time to write down during the day what is causing you to feel anxious. Seeing our concerns written in black and white often causes them to seem less threatening and may stop the “what ifs” and overthinking. Figure out what works for you to relieve the stress. For some, it may be prayer, a nature walk, fresh air, exercise, or yoga.

You Matter

Getting a full eight hours of sleep may seem like poor caregiving to you, but actually, the opposite is true. Adequate sleep may be your most important task. Good sleep boosts our memory and keeps the brain sharp. Our brain is filing away our memories while we sleep so we can recall them quickly as needed. Research shows that women who get less than six hours of sleep have more inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease, breathing problems, and digestive problems. Our eyes rewet when our eyes are closed. Adequate sleep can help with dry eyes.

 Low sleep quality can lead to depression. Depression can lead to poor sleep quality. Fresh air and time in nature can help with both. People who sleep at least seven hours a night are four times less likely to get sick. Adequate sleep boosts our immune system.

The truth is that losing sleep not only hurts your health but also weakens your role as a caregiver. Do not consider caring for yourself a weakness. You matter too!