Researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas say that sleep loss for caregivers of dementia patients can be between 2.5 to 3.5 hours of sleep per week. The researchers reviewed 35 studies that included nearly 3,300 caregivers. The findings were published online recently in JAMA Network Open.
Two Reasons for Sleep Loss for Caregivers
- Chronic stress can cause sleep problems. Caregivers of dementia patients need to deal with all the extra responsibilities, grief and sadness that come with the caring. The extra stress makes it hard to fall asleep and to stay asleep.
- People with dementia often have nighttime awakenings that make it difficult for both them and their caregivers to get a good night rest.
The sleep loss may not seem much, but it accumulates over the years and puts both the caregivers and their loved ones at risk. The extra stress affects caregivers’ cognition, and mental and physical health. As a result, they may forget some medication doses or react more emotionally than they normally would have.
But improving the quality of sleep of the caregivers can improve their functioning and quality of life.
Three Tips to Get Better Sleep
Get more morning sunlight
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. This rhythm tells you when to wake up and when to start feeling sleepy. One way to keep this rhythm healthy is to spend time in strong sunlight. One study in older adults found that two hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by two hours and sleep efficiency by 80%.
Enjoy some exercise
Moderate exercise can help to lower your stress. You can take a short walk, meditate or try some stretching exercises. One study in older adults showed that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and provided 41 more minutes of sleep at night. Try to avoid exercising late at night.
Stick to a routine
Try to establish a regular and relaxing bedtime routine. This is important for people with dementia because consistency gives them a sense of security. It’s also important for you. Try relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing. A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better. Having a routine can make your life simpler as it helps you feel in control and lowers your stress levels.
About 16 million family caregivers in the United States provide long-term care for dementia patients. Share this and make their night!