Tips for Getting More & Better Sleep as a Caregiver
As a caregiver, sometimes it can be difficult to get the amount and quality of sleep you need. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to lose sleep due to the added stress and responsibilities of caregiving. Sleep is an essential part of your health—adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a day—so it’s important to find the time to get quality shuteye.1 We’ve collected some tips and tricks on how to get more and better sleep as a caregiver, from meal prepping and eating well, to implementing meditation techniques into your nighttime routine.
1. Create a sleep schedule and follow it consistently.
Busy days and nights may require you to care for someone around the clock. Take a look at your caregiving routine and schedule seven to eight hours when you can consistently lay down each day.2 Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day regulates your body’s sleep-wake cycle, which in turn lets your body know when it’s time to sleep.2 Try to follow the same sleep schedule on your days off to keep consistency with your body’s habits.2
2. Set aside a space that’s for you, not for caregiving.
Every caregiving situation is different, but if you share a home with the person you’re caring for, find a separate space from them where you can rest. Being in the same room as your loved one can serve as a constant reminder of work, which may make it difficult for you to wind down enough to sleep. If possible, create an atmosphere that’s ideal for sleeping: keep the temperature low, turn off the lights, remove the TV or computer, and use earplugs if needed to make sure it’s quiet.1,2
3. Avoid consuming too much caffeine, especially within a few hours of going to sleep.
Many of us look to our daily cup (or cups!) of coffee as a much-needed pick-me-up. However, caffeine stays in the system for five to seven hours, so keep your caffeine usage in check to help promote healthier sleep. Try to limit your caffeine intake to the first part of your day, as its stimulating effects can negatively impact your ability to sleep.1,3 Take a look at your sleep schedule and count backwards to find out when you should stop drinking caffeine.3 It’s also important to note that caffeine is in other foods and beverages beyond coffee and tea, such as chocolate, so pay close attention to what you’re eating and drinking as it gets closer to bedtime.3
4. Try meditation and other relaxation techniques to help clear your mind.
Caregiving can be an extremely high-stress job, so it’s important to take steps to manage your stress and anxiety levels throughout the day so that you can sleep more easily at night. Try a mindfulness meditation, or yoga before getting into bed, both are helpful relaxation techniques.3,4 Something as simple as taking a bath before bedtime or listening to calming music can make an impact on your stress levels and help you get into a more relaxed state of mind before going to sleep.1,4 Avoid screen time and distractions like your phone as it gets closer to bedtime—try reading, journaling, or another calming activity instead to relax.1
5. Use caregiving down time for meal planning and prepping.
As mentioned previously, what you eat can impact how you sleep. It’s important to eat a balanced diet that’s low in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and saturated fat in order to promote overall health and better sleep.3 If you struggle with heartburn, avoiding trigger foods such as spicy foods close to bedtime, can help you get better sleep.3 When you have downtime during your caregiving shifts, set aside time for meal prep so you can easily create healthy, balanced meals. Focus on plant-based foods and foods rich in fiber and unsaturated fats when you’re prepping your meals and snacks.3
6. Seek professional help to help manage stress and anxiety.
If you’re having difficulty coping with your feelings of stress and anxiety on your own, seek out a therapist or mental health professional to help you manage your workload and its impact on your wellbeing. Talking to a professional, taking medication, or finding a combination of both can be effective ways to treat the anxiety interfering with your daily life and ability to sleep.5
When you’re getting enough sleep, you’re able to function better in your everyday life and work. Don’t think of sleep as selfish—prioritize getting enough quality sleep as an act of care both for yourself and for those you care for. From setting aside time to meal prep to creating a sleep schedule and a relaxing nighttime routine, there are numerous small things you can incorporate into your life to help you get more and better quality of sleep as a caregiver. Remember, you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anybody else!
- Healthy Sleep. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/healthysleep.html. Accessed March 15, 2023.
- Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379. Accessed March 15, 2023.
- How to Sleep Better with Michelle Drerup, PsyD. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/podcasts/health-essentials/how-to-sleep-better-with-michelle-drerup. Accessed March 15, 2023.
- Changing your sleep habits. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000757.htm. Accessed March 15, 2023.
- I’m So Stressed Out! Fact Sheet. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/so-stressed-out-fact-sheet. Accessed March 15, 2023.
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