Why You Deserve a Good Night’s Sleep

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Many family caregivers struggle through the day in a sleep-deprived haze. As they yawn and guzzle coffee all day, they may remember a time before caregiving, when they awoke eager to greet the day after a night of restorative sleep. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel that way again?

Caregivers can have trouble sleeping for a variety of reasons:

  • Frequently awakening to assist a loved one in the middle of the night
  • Worrying about issues like finances or their loved one’s health
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Use of stimulants like caffeine to stay awake during the day
  • Lack of exercise due to time constraints
  • Feeling guilty for sleeping or napping when there’s so much work to be done

Statistics Canada reports that nearly 60 per cent of family caregivers may experience trouble sleeping. And while a good night’s rest can make you feel refreshed and happy, sleeping also might help you ward off a host of medical problems.

Here are three benefits you can reap by prioritizing sleep in your caregiving life.

 1. Sleeping can help you avoid weight gain

Have you ever noticed how you seem to feel hungry all day after you’ve tossed and turned the night before? Your appetite is controlled by hormones secreted by the body at night. When you sleep poorly, your appetite hormones get out of whack. This can lead you to feel you need to stuff yourself with chips and cookies even when you’re not legitimately hungry.

When you get an adequate amount of sleep, you stand a better chance of getting through the day without craving junk food. When you’re well-rested, you can satisfy your hunger with foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These wholesome foods will give you energy, help you feel more alert and possibly keep you from packing on the pounds.

2. Sleeping can stave off the blues

You might be able to cope with an occasional sleepless night, but who wouldn’t feel irritable, impatient or mentally exhausted when that single episode morphs into weeks of insomnia?

This moodiness caused by poor sleep isn’t necessarily a temporary problem. Researchers are starting to correlate chronic sleep deprivation with long-term mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

When you get a solid eight hours of sleep regularly, you may find yourself feeling more patient, calm and capable as you go through your day. You already make sacrifices to provide care for a loved one; your mood should not be among them.

3. Sleeping well may make you a safer driver

Picture this: You’re driving your loved one to a medical appointment. As you wait at a red light, you suddenly realize the driver behind you is honking. The light turned green, and you didn’t notice. Did you momentarily nod off?

This scenario plays out day after day among people who are sleep deprived. Studies show a lack of sleep leads to fatigue and inattention. In fact, the Institute of Medicine estimates 20 per cent of all motor vehicle accidents can be attributed to drowsy driving.

A good night’s sleep can help sharpen your motor skills and reflexes. After a restful night, you’ll not only feel more alert as you get behind the wheel, but you’ll likely be able to navigate traffic easier and more safely.

Sleep should not be viewed as a luxury for anyone. The restorative functions of sleep make it one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Give yourself—and your loved ones—the gift of rest. Arrange for respite care if you need to. It likely will make you a happier caregiver in the long run.