Top 6 Reasons Caregivers Need Sleep

11 Comments

A good night's sleep. For the ever-vigilant, ever-stressed caregiver, the thought of getting a solid eight hours may seem like a pleasant pipe dream.

And you're not alone. The National Center for Sleep Disorders estimates that between 10 and 15 percent of American adults suffer from chronic bouts of insomnia.

Yet, studies linking inadequate sleep to a number of physical and mental ailments continue to pile up. Begging the question: Can anyone, especially those taking care of an elderly loved one, afford to skimp on their snoozing?

There are a multitude of reasons why a caregiver needs to prioritize getting a solid amount of shut-eye. Among other things, sleep:

  1. Slashes stress: There's a reason that AgingCare has an entire section devoted to caregiver stress—it's perhaps the single most common affliction of family caregivers. And it can be greatly affected by how much shut-eye you're getting. Studies show that, when you fail to get the necessary amount of sleep, your brain will hit the panic button, causing your stress levels to elevate. Conversely, when you're stressed, it can be nearly impossible for you to fall and stay asleep—no matter how tired you are. If you're unable to control your stress levels, this can turn into a vicious cycle.
  2. Magnifies memory: Worried that you're loved one's dementia might be rubbing off on you because you keep forgetting where you put your keys? It might just be that you're not getting enough sleep. Though the exact process remains elusive, scientists have concluded that sleep plays an essential role in the processing and retention of new information. Memory can be spilt up into three parts: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. While acquisition and recall can occur while a person is awake, consolidation—the process that makes a memory a permanent fixture in a person's mind—is believed to only occur when a person is asleep.
  3. Decreases depression: The trials and tribulations of caregiving are enough to make anyone feel hopeless, but evidence indicates that sleep deprivation can also play a role in regulating your mood. According to the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep may increase a person's risk for developing depression. It can also intensify symptoms in people who already suffer from the mental disorder. This connection partially explains why certain sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea, have also been linked to depression.
  4. Curbs cravings: Find yourself reaching for that tub of ice cream more and more often? Compared to their well-rested peers, those who don't get enough sleep may be less able to resist the temptation to dig into unhealthy comfort food. Recent research conducted by scientists from Columbia University and St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center discovered that when a person is sleep-deprived, the reward centers in their brain respond strongly to images of unhealthy food, while images of healthy food provoked little or no reward response. Other studies have connected not getting enough sleep to an increased craving for sweet and salty foods as well as an uptick in a person's risk for becoming obese.
  5. Heightens health: Even if you can find the time and finances to exercise and eat healthy, if you're not getting enough restful sleep, your efforts may be for naught. Countless research studies have linked inadequate sleep with a variety of health problems, including: increased risk of developing certain cancers, higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and heightened inflammation.
  6. Axes anxiety: Too little sleep can make you go from concerned caregiver to wound-up worrywart in no time. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, recently discovered that people who don't get enough sleep have the tendency to become far more anxious about an upcoming emotional event than those who get a normal amount of Zs. Brain scans of sleep-deprived participants showed that they experienced a dramatic increase in the brain activity linked with heightened anxiety. For some of the sleepiest, their brain's negative anticipatory reaction was heightened by over 60 percent.


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11 Comments

My wife had a massive stroke and i am now her full time care giver.
Thank God for the book "My stroke of Insight" by Dr.Jill Taylor.
Sleep for the care giver along with good nutrition and some personal time is critical to maintain good health.
I also pray, take minerals and vitamins otherwise I would have collapsed after 24/7 of this duty.
Hot showers are my reward almost daily.
Take care....
While I agree that a good night's sleep is important for caregivers, if you are a sole caregiver it may be elusive. You don't want to sleep so soundly that you miss the elder's call for help. I found I was up and down on average ever 1 1/2 hours to turn or in other ways help the elder. When I felt very sleepy and down, I would ask the long term care agency to send a home health aide for a 11-7 shift so I could focus solely on sleep. This inadequate way of providing for my health put demands on the funds set aside for home health aides for the month. Thus you try to limit this extra "expense" at the expense of your health. If you are of middle class means, no program is out there to cover these costs, which is something which should be addressed nationally. Sleep is important but after months and years of short nights or interrupted sleep, you don't even realize how extremely sleepy you are. If you miss one or two nights sleep you feel it, 20 or 30 nights sleep you oddly do not.
It is a problem.
My husbands daughter had her dad sign a POA then a bill of sale all on the same day saying every thing we had in the house was his even things I had before I met him and then I had to fight for my things because she said she had a bill of sale I had to produce my bill of sale for my king and queen mattress and springs that she swore was hers I did get them, but when the judge said name every thing you want I "said everything that is mine" when I named a few thing and then I went blank I had not had any sleep for 2 days and nights and she got every things else that I did not name when I ask the judge what about my shed he holds up a piece of paper where I name my things and said it is not on this paper so she got my $3500 dollar shed which I had a buyer for to put my husband in a nursing home and his daughter runs Florence Nursing Service and never offered any help for me to take care of her father She had already clean out the house of what she wanted and what she did not want she threw away even my murdered son' pictures that could not be replaced.