Working in the health care field for the past 20 years I have heard the term “Worry Hours” repeatedly when discussing family caregivers. These hours are between 10pm and 1am when family caregivers, overwhelmed by the burdens of managing caregiving duties, work load, family life and personal health, are wide awake and full of anxiety and stress. However; studies have shown that worry, stress and lack of sleep are detrimental to our health.
Most of us understand that getting a good night”s sleep is imperative to being alert, attentive and of sound mind in order to properly manage the day-to-day chaos in our lives.
Some simple adjustments can assist in decreasing your stress level and help you get to sleep:
- As much as you can, keep a regular bedtime.
- Create a sense of calm in your bedroom.
- Keep TV’s out of the room or turned off.
- Turn clocks around so you cannot see the time – studies have found that people can train themselves to get up at the same time each night by looking at their clock. If you cannot see your clock it can help you get back to sleep.
- Play a relaxation CD each night as you get ready to go to sleep. Doing this routinely will train your brain to associate the CD with sleep.
If you wake up in the middle of the night with worry ask yourself the following question: Can I do something right now about this issue?
- If you can do something at that moment – just do it.
- If it’s work related, send yourself an email from your personal email to your work email so you can follow-up in the morning.
- If you can’t take care of the situation immediately write it down. – I find it helpful to keep a notepad next to the bed to note items that I need to addressed in the morning.
- Leave yourself a voice-mail message to follow-up on the items that are keeping you up. SIDE-NOTE: I used this method when I was caring for my grandpa and would come into work in the morning and the first several voice-mails were usually from me, but I found it very effective.
If it’s out of your control – let it go. Worrying about things that are out of our control is madness so use the following tools to relax and get back to the business of sleeping.
- Positive self-talk : (i.e.: I am doing the best I can).
- Prayer – always a helpful tool.
- Deep breathing.
Take action today (well tonight really) and start sleeping your way to a healthier, more stress-free you!