by francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear Francy: I take care of my dad and my husband works odd hours. I am not sleeping, I feel like I sleep walk all day. Dad struggles to sleep at night too. I don’t want to take drugs, when I have to be ready to give Dad care at any time.
I totally understand I slept with a door bell in my bedroom for five years. Mother would ring when she needed me and most nights I would jump up and run down those stairs a least twice. But sleep has to be gotten for your own body repair. That is what happens when we sleep; we heal and repair and our mind rebuilds and so a good deep sleep is a must.
Before you read my tips think about your sleeping for a little while. When you can not sleep, there are usually a few reasons that are effecting the sleep pattern. Do you have pain or muscle discomfort at night? Are you worried about money or work issues? Do you have care of your Dad or children in the front of your mind when you go to bed? Are you eating or drinking foods that might make a difference in your sleep? Is your bed comfortable? Allergies or breathing problems hitting you during the night time? How about late night eating that leaves your stomach all upset and acid filled? All of these things can be a part of your problem and you may not have given it any thought, so think about your living patterns that will really help you find a solution to your sleepless nights.
Here are some tips:
- Bedrooms need to be dark to get deep sleep that brings you the most rest. Even if you get up to go to the bathroom or care for another person, you need to rest as deep as you can in between. But as we age our eyes do not do well in the dark when we are moving around. We want to avoid falls at all cost so low light plug-in night lights need to be placed in a couple areas leading the way to the door or bathroom. That means you need to buy and use a night eye shade. You can find them on-line at Esty a site that crafters make wonderful home made items like eye shades. These eye shades will darken your sleep and you can use them for naps or deep sleep at night and never worry about falls when you wake and walk around the bed.
- What can you do about the actual bed? Can you get a new mattress or mattress topper? Those wonderful memory foam tops are down in price and really give older mattresses the feeling of cozy comfort. Get new sheets, they come in high thread count now and you get a more silky feel to a cotton sheet. Or if elders feel cold get flannel sheets. Make sure the cover is just right, not too heavy. To much weight on your feet or legs keeps you moving around more at night. You can find new electric blankets that heat according to the body zone that is cold. The blanket actually feels your body heat and adjusts itself to your needs. Nice stuff. Then there is the pillow. How long have you had yours? Well shocking as it seems, sleep specialists say to replace your pillows every two years. So get some new pillows in your house. Throw the old ones out.
- Sitting up slightly for allergies and stomach problems. Acid stomachs and dripping sinuses love the wedge pillow that you can get to put on the bed and then put your pillows on top.This is a must for those that suffer from breathing problems, boy does it help. I use one – it keeps you up on an incline with comfort all nite.
- Turn off the TV and click on the radio with light music on a timer. This way you can have something to soothe your mind while you wind down, but not keep you up for hours of concentration with a movie or TV show. Force yourself to do it for a week, it takes a while to make changes.
- Clean your bedroom and make sure it’s free of dust and add an air filter for good breathing. You might want to buy a defuser that will put a mist of oils in the air for a few minutes before you sleep. I use peppermint and it clears my sinus and really lets me relax. Give it a try, aroma therapy is like a spa at home!
- If your bedroom is a mess and you clear a path to the bed or clear off the bed to sleep. Grow up! The world has changed you are no longer in Jr. High and you have to do a good clean up and throw away your clothes that do not fit in drawers or closets. How can you sleep with a mess around you? Your mind will not release that mess, it will be processing it all night long; keeping you in a light rest, not deep sleep. Just do it-get it done and release the mess!
- No sleeping on the floor or couch! I am always amazed at how many people actually have a bed on the floor or sleep on their couch. This is a no no. Seniors or care givers need bedrooms that have a bed that is easy to stand and get out and in to. Make this a must. You can find inexpensive bed stands at thrift stores and blow up mattresses at big box stores. Many charities will provide beds for elders and those that are unwell. So do home work and get a good bed that works for you and your senior in care.
- Do some reading about supplements that you can take in the evening to relax you and help you rest. Get help with a muscle relaxer if you have aches or pains at night and add joint control pills to help this disappear. Are you taking your medications and supplements in proper order? Some keep you awake so you do not want to take those at night. I made a error in giving my husband his blood pressure pills at night. They are water pills that made him go to the bathroom, so the poor guy was up and down all night because of my mistake. Learn from me, ask the pharmacist or doctor to review meds and figure out which work best for restful sleep at night. Some medications actually make you sleepy so those are great to take at night.
- Tuck your senior away for the night and get them as comfortable as possible. Do not let them take naps that are longer than 20-45 minutes in the day so they can sleep at night. Make sure they do the ideas above and have them do a little walking or stretching before they go to bed, so their body is relaxed and ready to rest. Put a commode in their room so they have a easy up and back to bed at night. Use the commode in the bedroom at night and then clean it and put it over the toilet during the day so the senior has handles to help them using the toilet.
- Mental worries can be calmed with journal writing or to do lists. I have done this for years. I keep a spiral notebook by my bedside and I write 3 things that bothered me about the day and 3 things that were enjoyable. It just allows my mind to work out personal problems. Then I do a to do list for the next day. I write down no more than 10 tasks and that removes the ideas from my mind. I now have the information on paper to release my brain from remembering to do things. It has worked so well for me that I have spread this around to many – who have found it a secret to their clear minds for deep sleep.
- Eating and drinking later in the evening can make a BIG difference in your sleep pattern. Two hours before you go to bed stop your fluids and food intake. That will help. But as early as dinner think of what you are eating and how it will go through your body and force gas, acids or loose stool in the middle of the night. Take it easy, have light foods for dinner and easy treats during your TV time. Put away the greasy foods, the chips at night and sodas that have caffeine. Be wise, if you have trouble sleeping make high power foods and drink your afternoon meal, not your evening meal.
- If you can not sleep do not lay there wide awake. Get up and walk around the house and work out your body pains. Sit in a chair and read or listen to music and just rest. Don’t do chores, or start a movie, do things that will allow your body to re-adjust and rest again. If you drink, drink a caffeine free drink and eat something light, like yogurt, pudding, toast or cheese. Sugar foods just give you energy and keep you from sleep, so try to keep your food intake small and easy. Then when you calm down again, return to your bedroom and tell yourself you are ready for sleep and it will come easier for you.
- If you suffer from leg cramps, stomach pain, breathing problems that cause heavy snoring – talk to your doctor about your body and your sleep. They have ideas that can help you and medications that are light to heavy and you will be able to get your body ready to rest at night.
Losing weight, exercising during the day, getting fresh air and eating good foods all make sleeping easier for you. But really the best ideas are usually the simple ones. You know your own body and your senior’s body and if you just think of sleep loss as a problem to be solved, you will find the answer. There is always a way, even if you take a nap while your senior takes a nap. You can get a friend or family to come in once a week so you can get a good afternoon of sleep. Or you can go and visit a close friend or family and take a good nap at their home without the stress of your home around you. You will be able to stop the no sleep pattern, just make it an issue to solve not just live through. You are doing a great thing helping your Dad, you deserve to be healthy and rested in your life. Your husband deserves to have you strong and rested, too!
Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.
I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one, blessings. francy
PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.