Making Rest Routine
Healthy sleep habits should be an important part of self-care for caregivers.
Sleep experts suggest that most adults over 18 get anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health. But with so many demands on caregivers’ time,
getting a good night’s sleep can be a struggle. I’ve spent a lot of
nights tossing and turning, even when my partner, Jackie, who has
multiple myeloma, sleeps peacefully beside me.
clear your mind before bedtime by creating a list of your concerns—whether
upcoming appointments, household
tasks or work-related stresses.
Sleepless nights can add up and reduce
the ability to think clearly and cope with
the emotional ups and downs that come
with caregiving. In addition, chronic
sleep loss in healthy individuals has
been associated with obesity and weight
gain, high blood pressure and a decrease
in immune system function.
as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise seems to
make a difference in my quality of sleep.
Build your sleep “nest.” Make sure
your pillows and mattress are comfortable and your room is dark and
quiet. I’ve also used background noise
machines or apps that play soothing
sounds, such as rain and waterfalls.
Limit your caffeine. I’m a coffee
addict, but I’m strict about cutting
myself off by 2 p.m., even on long days at
the hospital. If you have similar cravings,
opt for decaffeinated varieties of coffee
Go solo. It’s not easy to do so and may
not be possible for everyone, but I’ve
found it rejuvenating to sleep in our
guest room at times when I’m especially
Limit screen time before bedtime.
When I started getting sick with
the flu and other viruses, I figured my
health was being affected by poor sleep.
By making simple lifestyle changes to
promote better habits, I noticed a marked
improvement in my caregiving abilities,
overall health and ability to take care of
my own responsibilities.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
Sticking to a routine will help your
body recognize that it’s time to go to
sleep. Each night before bed, I take a hot
shower and have a cup of caffeine-free
herbal tea. Then Jackie and I will read
or listen to a lighthearted podcast and
snuggle with our dogs.
Turn off devices that emit light, such as
TVs, computers, tablets and smart phones,
at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.
Light affects our circadian rhythm, the
internal clock that tells our bodies when to
sleep and when to wake up.
Exercise. Being physically active
during the day helps me fall asleep
more easily at night. It’s not always
possible to get in a full workout, but I
try to do something that makes me sweat
at least a little every day, such as taking
my dog for a short, quick walk or pulling
weeds from the garden. Getting as little
Reserve difficult conversations for
the day. Try to avoid having discussions
about upsetting topics, such as money or
politics, before you go to sleep. Most of
the time, these conversations can wait
Get help. Depression and anxiety,
which are common among caregivers, can
also cause sleep disturbances. If you’re not
getting enough sleep using simple lifestyle
adjustments, talk to your doctor, who may
be able to prescribe medicine to help or
refer you to a sleep specialist.
Make a list. If you are feeling stressed
about the next day or the week ahead,
AIMEE SWARTZ is a writer based in Washington,
D.C. Her partner, Jackie, has been living with multiple myeloma for 15 years.