The work of caring for a loved one can be a heavy responsibility to bear. Love isn't usually a problem but stress can be. The difficult emotional and mental demands may be exhausting yet the stress can prevent you from getting the seven to nine hours of sleep you need. Not only that, the person for whom you care may keep you awake too. Despite the challenges, you can get better sleep.
Stress Plays with Your Emotions
You need to keep in mind that stress plays with your emotions. Sleep acts as an emotional regulator. Without at least seven hours of it, the area of the brain that processes your emotions becomes hyperactive and oversensitive to any kind of negative thoughts, emotions, or events.
While this happens, the logic center of your brain slows down and goes quiet, exerting less influence over your emotional responses. The cycle of sleep-disrupting stress only adds fuel to the fire (more stress). Consequently, it's difficult to control and manage your emotions without enough sleep.
Tips for Less Stress and More Sleep
You’re caring for another person day after day. But, remember that daily stress management will help you better care for yourself and your loved one. It might take time to find what works for you within your schedule, but it's worth the effort.
- Make Time for Meditation
Meditation has been used for centuries to focus the mind and body. It's been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate while strengthening the connection between the emotion and logic centers of the brain. You'll need to practice 10 to 15 minutes a day to see results, but with consistency, it can help keep your mind from drifting into stressful thoughts of the past or future.
2. Exercise Regularly (and Try Yoga)
Exercise fills your body with endorphins, which boost mood (think runner's high) and act as a natural, though mild, pain reliever. The repetitive movements and focus required for many physical activities act as meditation in motion. Stress can be forgotten or at least move to the background while you get seating. Finally, exercise wears your body out so you're better prepared to sleep at night.
3. Reach Out and Accept Help/Support
There’s comfort in knowing you’re not alone, and there's nothing wrong with asking for and accepting help. It may come in the form of a listening ear or a chance for you to get out of the house. Family and friends are always a good choice, but if they're unavailable, there are many online groups that you can chat with at any time. In person, by phone, email, or text, connecting with other people can be one of the best ways to reduce stress because you know there are others who care for you, too.
4. Personalize Your Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines work because of their predictability. Your body follows your cues and adjusts your behavior, including the start of your sleep cycle, based on your preferred schedule. You can help your brain recognize when to begin the sleep cycle by following a regular bedtime routine. The routine also gives you a chance to reduce your stress before crawling in bed. It's a good time for meditation, gentle yoga, or taking a warm bath to get your mind and body prepared for sleep. The best results come when you perform the routine in the same order and start at the same time each night.
5. Get Comfortable
Your body temperature drops at the onset of sleep. To maintain that temperature, you may need to lower the room temperature or get a cooling mattress to prevent heat-related wakefulness. You'll also want to keep both light and sound out of the room as light can suppress sleep hormones and sound can disturb your sleep cycle.
Sleep will give you the strength and compassion you need to care for your loved one. Though it’s a normal part of life, stress shouldn’t keep you from a full night’s rest. Be patient as you develop new sleep habits. With time, you’ll find what works for you and you’ll be ready to take on the challenges of each new day.