Sleepy woman with drooping eye lids set against a darkening sky

Don’t Lose Sleep as a Parkinson’s Caregiver: Part Two

This is part two in a series of three articles that focus on things you can do to prioritize and achieve sleep as a caregiver. In part one, we addressed secondary sleep problems and strategies for getting nighttime assistance so you can get more and better sleep.

In part two, we highlight ways to manage the daytime schedule to preserve your sleep quality, then embark on a journey into that nebulous region referred to as sleep hygiene.

It’s about time

Twenty-four hours is never enough time to manage life’s challenges as a PD caregiver. However, we might rob ourselves of a key process — sleep — in order to just keep up.

This is a dangerous default. People make mistakes when they are sleep deprived. They become clumsy, forget appointments, have car accidents, mix up medications, fail to interpret another’s emotions.

You cannot maintain good health, humor, and energy if you’re sleep deprived. Sleep is just as critical to good health as nutritious food and regular exercise. It also bolsters your ability to manage stress and builds the stamina, focus, and positive attitude required to be the best caregiver.

Prioritizing sleep can be tricky, more a “work in progress” than something you master. That’s okay - the payoff is worthwhile.

Priorities: Work smarter, sleep better

Project managers do it, and so do crafty working mothers and solo entrepreneurs. They manage their time in a way that serves their higher needs. The saying, "I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” is not a prescription for good health.

Tame the time machine

Daily planning prevents unnecessary chaos. While caregiving may be somewhat chaotic, don’t resign yourself to it. A half hour of daily planning will offload anxiety so you can sleep at night.

  • Keep a tidy calendar: Store appointments in one place (a portable daybook or online calendar). Then follow this protocol:
    • Sunday afternoon: Review the week’s schedule, then arrange needed support that day (or on Monday).
    • Every afternoon: Check the following day's plan and confirm arrangements. Pack necessities now (paperwork, doctor’s questions, medicines, insurance card).
    • Avoid bedtime planning: Otherwise, you'll launch into stress mode over problems that may be too late to do anything about. Instead, go to bed.
  • Use To Do Lists to trap worry: Keep a journal for “things to do.” Write them down as they occur (memory is not your friend here). Doing so effectively puts your anxieties into “journal jail,” morphing them into action items to be addressed each time you review your schedule. Worries can’t take charge at bedtime when they’re here.
  • Build in exercise "appointments": Exercise - whether at the gym, on a short walk, practicing yoga, or playing rec volleyball - naturally restores energy, mood, and stamina. Schedule reliable temporary care for your loved one so you can go. For bonus points: Exercise outside, early in the day, to reset and stabilize your circadian rhythms so you’ll fall asleep easier at night.
  • Budget for mental health moments: Put them on your calendar! An hour, a day, a night, a weekend. Time off from caregiving will save both your sanity and your sleep.

Tip: Be flexible and forgive yourself. Caregiving demands it.

Best practices: Sleep hygiene

To instill healthy habits, practice one or more of these sleep hygiene efforts daily for at least two weeks. Granted, you can’t always do all of the things. Give it your best shot.

  • Keep a gratitude journal: Write down things you are grateful for. Preserve your capacity for finding beauty, inspiration and positive energy in everyday activities and encounters with others. Reflecting on warm fuzzies will help you sleep better.
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary: Keep lighting low. Prioritize comfort (bedding, pajamas, mattress, pillows, décor). Keep it cool — lower the thermostat but add layers of blankets. Enjoy aromatherapy! Lavender from an essential oil diffuser or pillow spray brings a welcoming sense of calm. Try white noise, soft music, or earplugs for some peace and quiet. Weighted blankets can dash away anxious thoughts. Make your bed! When bedtime comes again, you’ll feel invited to return.
  • Keep the hour before bed sacred: Warm baths, herbal tea, a good book, or foot massage can unload burdens. Avoid high-energy tasks or stimulating multimedia entertainment. Bedtime is not for cell phones. Charge your phone in a separate room so you won’t stare at it while in bed. If reading from an electronic device, use blue light filters or don blue light blocking glasses.
  • Practice consistency. Going to bed and awakening at exactly the same time is critical for stable circadian rhythms. But when disruptions occur…
  • Sleep whenever you can. There’s no shame in taking short restorative naps to replenish last night’s lost sleep. A pre-planned 2o- to 45-minute doze every day may be a lifesaver.

Next time: In part three, we’ll focus on mindfulness as a sleep booster and review the realities of caregiver burnout, with sleep-related tips for its prevention.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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