Posted by Eva Owens
A good night’s sleep is a key contributor to a healthy life, but care providers may have special challenges with sleep depending on their client’s needs. Whether you want to help your client rest and recharge well, or if you yourself need more energy and stamina throughout the day, we rounded up as many ideas as possible to sleeping better.
Protect the sleep you do get
For many care providers, nighttime interruptions are inevitable, or it may be unreasonable to have a regular sleep schedule because of the nighttime needs of the person they care for. Some important rules of thumb are that you need a good night sleep at least every third night to prevent burn-out, and sleep comes in waves of about 90 minutes.
Doing what you can to protect the sleep you do get is vital. If you struggle to stay asleep despite interruptions, you may want to contact a doctor and look into a CPAP machine to help your body get good sleep when you can.
The tips below will help you protect your sleep and fall asleep when it’s time to fall asleep.
Make your room a sleep haven
Try to always sleep in the same place in your client’s home, and keep that area from your client or loved one’s medicines, medication schedules, lab reports or anything else that might cause you anxiety.
A dark room is the best possible place to get some sleep. Even a digital clock on your nightstand can disrupt your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Need your alarm clock to wake up? You can cover any display you can’t turn off with a towel or t-shirt, or simply turn the clock towards the wall. And keep a nightlight in the bathroom to avoid a bright light in the middle of the night.
Even in the 2-3 hours leading up to bedtime, lower lights will help our bodies prepare to sleep. Lower lights produce the hormones that trigger sleep. If you read in bed before bedtime, use a 15-watt bulb.
Close behind darkness is quiet. If there are noises in your neighborhood or home that are unavoidable, you can use a fan or white noise to help you sleep.
Finally, our bodies rest best in cool environments. If you have the means, keeping your room between 62-69 degrees at night will contribute to a good night’s sleep.
Create a safe environment and prevent unnecessary wake-ups
If you have a client with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you can take steps to make the home more secure so that they won’t wander out the door and get lost. The Alzheimer’s Association has good tips on preventing wandering.
Consider removing any dangerous objects like scissors or knives out of sight. Place night lights around rooms to create safe walking paths. You can even consider installing a baby monitor in order to hear someone moving around at night..
If your client or loved one struggles with bladder control overnight, check out our tip on layering bedsheet. You can also consider overnight adult pull-ups or diapers.
Virtually every sleep recommendation begins with a call to give your cell phone, tablet, computer, and TV a curfew, powering down at least an hour before bedtime.
Getting good sleep is all about getting in sync with your body’s natural rhythms of being awake and asleep. The ‘blue light’ from our various devices sends signals to our brains that it’s daytime, and not yet time for sleep.
Let your mind rest
When our minds race, our bodies can’t settle down.
For example, if you glance at your clock during the night it could be triggering a wave of panic about how little sleep you can still get, or send your mind racing about what awaits you in the morning. Stash those clocks out of easy sight.
Ten minutes of relaxation before bedtime can make a difference. Take a bath, read something calming, listen to quiet music, or even meditate to help release the leftover stress from your day.
Then, focus on something positive and relaxing as you sleep. Rather than letting your mind wander, think about something familiar and happy to keep your mind from racing — a calming environment, a relaxing memory. You can even tell yourself a story.
Practice deep breathing — closing your eyes, and taking deep slow breaths, counting to 5 as you inhale through your nose, and counting to 5 as you exhale through your mouth.
You can also practice ‘progressive muscle relaxation.’ Beginning with your toes, clench all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up to the top of your head.
Naps, exercise, caffeine and consistent bedtimes
Our bodies are tuned to get our best sleep at night. Sleeping during the day should be kept to short, 20 minute catnaps, ideally no later than mid-day. Try to finish any exercise for the day a full three hours before bedtime. This will give your body enough time to calm down and prepare to sleep. Finally, switch to non-caffeinated beverages after noon. Be sure to read labels on medications, because a surprising number contain caffeine.
Most importantly, we need to keep our brains used to a schedule, even on weekends. Having consistent bedtimes and wakeup times will help your body know when it’s time to sleep. Instead of sleeping in on the weekends, treat yourself to a 20-minute mid-day nap. And, when you wake up in the morning, go outside into the sunlight within 5-30 minutes. This is the best signal for your body that it’s time to wake up.
That being said, if your client’s needs prevent regular sleeping hours, it’s okay to nap when they nap. We often need rest, but instead choose chores that can reasonably wait.
Discomfort and allergies
Discomfort can be harmful to a good night’s sleep — especially those all-important waves of deepest, most restful stages of sleep. Use a pillow either between your legs or under your knees to alleviate back pain. Try to use a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck — not too thick, not too flat. And avoid sleeping on your stomach, where your neck is twisted.
Using an air-tight, dust-proof cover that seals around your mattress, box spring, or pillow, will keep out dust and dust mites that trigger allergies.
Dinner, water, and alcohol
Anything we eat at night will have some effect on our sleep. Heavy dinners and sugary snacks late at night will contribute to a poor night’s sleep. Most sources recommend nighttime snacks of a small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, milk, yogurt, or a banana. If you can, avoid drinking water up to two hours before bedtime, as you’ll more likely have to get up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself, and it can often be hard to get back to sleep.
Finally, it’s true that alcohol helps us feel sleepy, but when its effects wear off, we wake up more often.