Have you ever noticed how a good night’s sleep can make the next day’s challenges just a bit more bearable and the high points a bit more enjoyable? Of course you have. We have all experienced the added energy and improved frame of mind that comes with good sleep. And, conversely, we all know how a bad night’s sleep can derail just about everything we do the next day.
Those who care for loved ones with dementia are especially vulnerable to the aftereffects of a sleepless night. And, if you’re like so many, you have plenty of sleepless nights spent worrying about your loved one, yourself, finances, health and so on. The list goes on and on.
With some patience and planning you can get the sleep you need. Here are three tips to get you moving in the right direction:
- Carve out a time to “worry”. This may sound counter-productive, but experts say that creating a time of day when you give yourself permission to focus on your worries and concerns helps you gain better control over your thoughts and emotions. Write down your concerns along with some steps you can take to solve them, if it’s possible. Keep them in a drawer for the next day. But be sure to keep with your schedule. Putting aside a “worry hour” can help you function much more effectively during the day as well as helping you sleep.
- Create a sleep routine. When you are ready for bed try meditation, yoga or simply stretching to relax your muscles and clear your mind. You might listen to some soft music as you get ready for bed. Try to avoid eating a heavy meal within an hour of going to bed. Avoid stimulating activities, like video games or watching TV. Once you get good at your sleep routine your body will begin to calm down quickly, recognizing that it is time for sleep.
- Create an atmosphere geared to sleep. If it’s possible to have your own bedroom, turn it into your own “sanctuary” with soft lighting and as little noise as possible. Before bed you might try putting out scented oil or candle. Your room should be devoid of anything (non-critical) that keeps you connected to your caregiving duties, if possible. So forms, medication lists, and other paperwork connected to your caregiving should be put in another room.
Don’t expect miracles overnight. Learning to think in new ways and form new habits takes time. Be patient with yourself. It will take time to “get good at” falling and staying sleeping. Keep at it. Remember, you deserve a restful, restorative 7-8 hours of sleep each night. You can and will get there. And, once you do, you will find the result well worth your efforts. So, by the way, will your loved ones.