I spent a year with “one eye open” video monitor in bed with me jumping out when he called. Never enough sleep, every 2-3 hours up at night and usually sleeping 4-5 hours total. I was Stressed and worried to the max. Now, he died a couple months ago and my body craves at least 8 hours sleep but I still wake every 2-3 hours and end up just with 5 hours a night. I look at my phone, email and news since I lie awake. It is as if my sleep has been damaged permanently. What should I do to get back to 8 hours besides take my phone out of the room? I don’t drink coffee or any caffeine and I am a night owl my whole life that used to sleep 8-9 hours consistently. I feel as if I went through a war the past year and I am shell shocked.

I'm so sorry for the harrowing journey and loss of your dad. May you receive peace in your heart and healing in your spirit.

There is such a thing as "sleep hygiene". At the risk of giving you "common" advice, I think you have trained your body into a pattern but the good news is that you can also retrain it into another pattern.

- get exercise every day (but not right before bedtime). Even just a long walk at a brisk pace
- don't drink alcohol after dinner (this one is hard for me but I've learned that it totally disrupts my sleep quality)
- don't eat a large meal later at night
- do things to relax your mind: turn off stressful news or shows after a certain hour; listen to calming music, etc. Give your body time to fully relax.
- take a long soak in a nicely hot tub (or take a shower)
- make sure you have the blue light from devices turned off
- if you wake up in the night resist mental activity because you are bored or frustrated...the more activity you have your mind do, the less likely you are to get it back to a state of sleepiness
- try melatonin (it's not a sleep aid, but it acts as a signal to tell your body it's time to sleep)

If you live with someone, have they ever told you that you snore? If so, you may also have apnea, which would require a sleep study. You've had a rough time, so pamper yourself now for a good long while.
Helpful Answer (14)
Reply to Geaton777
NYDaughterInLaw Feb 25, 2021
Great advice!
Been there...Done that.
I think all caregivers do this.
It was a long time before I could sleep through the night.
It was a long time before I could go out shopping without the thought that I had to get home by 3:00 so the caregiver could leave.
It was a long time before I thought about making a dinner that was not a soup so that it could be pureed.
You need to rethink and find yourself again. That can take a while.
You need to "reset" your clock.
Take your phone out of the room.
Do not watch TV in bed.
Bring a book with you and read if you have to . Get a timer for the lamp so that if you fall asleep reading the light will go out and not wake you later.
Get a white noise machine and set it on something calming. (mine has several sounds my favorite is the "summer night" with crickets and other calming sounds you hear on a summer evening, I can't listen to any of the running water ones though😉)
If you don't get in a bit of exercise get in a nice long walk.
If you do not have a lot to do during the day look for a place to volunteer if you feel comfortable doing that.
And You have been through a war of sorts and good possibility that along with the grief you do have PTSD. Have you talked to someone? There are medications that can help you. Medications are a TOOL not a CRUTCH.
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Reply to Grandma1954
Goangele Feb 27, 2021
Wonderful advice. I would like to suggest as an alternative to reading with a lamp on, that a Kindle reader be purchased. There is no blue light, nor back light, and the lighting it has can be brought down very low. Also, one has the option to increase the font size, which is a tremendous help for those advancing in age. I just LOVE my Kindle reader, with its dozens of books all in one place! I can read to fall asleep, without it inconveniencing my husband in any way.
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Let me offer my sympathy for your loss and stress. I lost my husband, my love, about four months ago so I can sort of understand.

Your body set itself into a ‘can do’ pattern to deal with the demand and stress. It can reset itself, but it will take time. You now must retrain it back to normal. It will take awhile, but I believe it will happen. Here are some of the things I do or think would help.
Take walks, exercise, swim (if possible), have lunch with friends, get a pet and foster a pet, mentally tell your self, he is out of misery now, i did what I could, now I can do what makes me happy. Buy new clothes. And I have found a CBD product that helps make me BE CLAM. It does soothe the nerves without any side effects. One during the day, one at night. It helps.
Of course, there are reminders and bumpy times. But hopefully your body will adjust. Give yourself time. Four months, unfortunately, is not very long for the kind of stress you have experienced for your whole self to get back to its old self.

Spring is coming, plant a small garden, walk in the sunshine, chat with friends. Buy something new, like a new sweater, shoes. Be happy that your Dad is no longer suffering.

my sincere best wishes
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Reply to Bdette144

First, my sympathies on the loss of your dad. (((hugs)))

Secondly, how long has it been since dad passed? Like you, I spent over a year with mostly nights of broken sleep, listening for any noises from my mom. I thought, the night she passed away "well, at least now I might get a full night's sleep". But for me, it took months. My mom died in the beginning of October; I really didn't get back into a "normal" sleep regime until the end of January; normal being I get more full nights of sleep than broken ones. But I still have 1-2 nights a week where I wake up "listening" for mom. I just think it's going to take some time. Remember, any sort of change - even things you're excited about happening - cause stress, and stress is deadly to sleep.

I think Geaton has given you some excellent tips to help promote a good night's sleep. If this goes on for a long time - that is, if you don't find your sleep patterns at least improving by the spring, I would make an appointment with my doctor and speak to him/her, and be guided by their advice. But I hope, like me, as time goes on you will be able to get some decent night's sleep in the not-too-distant future.

Good luck.
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Reply to notgoodenough

Different circumstances, but after I had worked a graveyard shift for five years, and then had to suddenly turn around to trying to sleep at night, I could not. Same as you, unable to sleep, interrupted sleep, etc. I was miserable and tired in the daytime. None of the typical advice about ‘sleep hygiene’ and setting new patterns helped one bit. I could not sleep in the dark. To sleep at all I had to turn a light on. A room that was too quiet woke me and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep as I automatically strained to hear what to me were normal sounds for sleeping to.

My suggestion is the opposite of what others here have said. Go with the setup you are accustomed to - have that video monitor on by your bed. You are used to that light and if it’s not there your body goes on alert. Bit by bit, you’ll sleep longer as the calls for help aren’t coming through. Eventually you will be able to turn it away from you, and then off entirely.

Also contrary to most sensible sleep advice, we sleep with a TV on all night, replaying the same movies, quiet movies but ones we like. If we wake up, we have something pleasant to look at that is also a bit boring as we have seen the movies so many times. It only takes a couple minutes of being awake to one of those to put us back to sleep. All of this is accompanied by the familiar sounds of a CPAP and oxygen machine, and a room air conditioner. We both sleep quite well with all this very accustomed sound and light, much better than we ever have trying to do ‘proper’ sleep techniques.
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Reply to Goddatter

Dear Dantala,
Bless you, and thank you for your diligence and faithfulness for taking care of your dad!! Sounds like you are doing what is right in terms of no caffeine... maybe you could also walk or exercise a small bit everyday (get some fresh air and sunshine), eat well (proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables) and stay hydrated. My parents passed away and it has taken me awhile to “decompress”. I totally understand the vigilance and high stress overload. Instead of watching tv or looking at any screens, maybe you could read before bedtime. The quiet and time for your brain to process reading will help. I read my Bible. Psalm 19:7a says “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Have peace about how you’ve advocated for your dad. The Lord will redeem your time and your sleep. I know because He did this for me. He is the God of redemption. Now, you can take time for yourself. It’s hard to slow down once you’ve been in a constant routine of high stress, but hopefully, you can now take time for yourself. May He give you His peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. Many blessings!!
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Reply to Help2014

You ate only a couple of months into recovering from the stress of care taking and the shock of your dad's death. Give yourself time. Worrying about whether you will ever sleep again will keep you awake.

I have not slept through the night for the last 40 years, but I learned that "bi-phasic sleep" is a normal pattern for some people, so now I do not fret too much if I wake up during the night. Don't think too far ahead when you wake up in the night. If morning comes before you've slept enough, promise yourself a (short!!) nap sometime during the day. You may not ever bother with it.

Don't schedule things for too early in the morning, so youcan sleep a little later if you do fall back to sleep.

The after effects of care taking and a death may take several months to wind down. Entirely normal. Be your own care taker now and don't demand too much of yourself.
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Reply to RedVanAnnie

Like you, I was a longtime caregiver (five years) and hardly ever slept more than a few hours at a time. Towards the end, I was having to wake up every hour or two and would often find myself changing all of the sheets after an accident, having to cook or change diapers in the middle of the night, dispensing medicine, or whatever. After my fiance passed and the necessity ended, the poor sleep habits continued. I was despairing of ever getting a good night's sleep. It took months, but now I do! Here's how I changed my sleep habits:
1. For a few weeks I took one 5mg. tablet of extended release Melatonin.
2. Stopped drinking either coffee or tea after about 3pm.
3. Limited ALL liquids about 3 hours before my intended bedtime.
4. Stopped watching TV after 10pm and started reading instead.
5. Wore loose-fitting socks in bed. For whatever reason, they help me sleep better (possibly because my feet are warm).
6. If I woke during the night and hadn't gone back to sleep in just a few minutes, I would read a book, NOT look at my phone. The blue light from a phone or computer interferes with sleep.
7. Did NOT use a white noise machine (latest research shows that the constant low-level noise can actually cause hearing loss.)
8. Get on a regular schedule. Go to bed at roughly the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning.
9. Let time work its magic. You have been through a lot, and with time your body will return to better habits. In the meantime, if you feel drowsy during the day, take a short nap (not so long that it keeps you from sleeping at night).
10. You might consider using a weighted blanket. These have been proven to reduce anxiety. They are available online and at stores too.
Your body is trying to tell you that you need more rest. Tell your mind to listen to it, because it is wiser than most of the people giving you advice, including me!
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Reply to craftslady1

I completely agree with Geaton about sleep hygiene. You need to establish a new bedtime routine. Decide what time you want to go to bed. Start preparing 1-2 hours before bedtime. Turn off the TV and put on mellow music. Have a hot mug of herbal tea. Take a bath. When you get into bed, make sure the room is dark. Use your phone to stream white noise - babbling brook, etc. It takes 3 weeks to establish a new habit. I hope that you get back restful, recuperative sleep. And I hope you'll keep us posted on your progress.
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Reply to NYDaughterInLaw

Hello Dantala,
Bless you for being so good to your dad. I am a registered Sleep technologist and sleep can be complicated. You need to establish exact sleep and wake times, even if you can't get to sleep on time. No caffeine or alcohol at all.Remove the phone, put into another room. Room should be completely dark and cool, wear socks if your feet are cold. If you can't get to sleep within 30 min, get up and sit in a nearby chair, in the dark, no phone. Sit until you feel yourself getting sleepy, then get back in bed. Set your alarm for the same time every morning, even if you feel tired. Get up at same time every day! This is very important to setting your sleep patterns. Your body will gradually adjust. Best of luck.
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Reply to Audvich

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