When is the last time you had a good night’s sleep? If you’re a caregiver, and if you’re in the Sandwich Generation (caring for your aging parents and your growing family and a career), chances are you have an even harder time shutting off your mind and getting a good night’s sleep. You’d think that with all of the items you’re tasked with that you would fall into bed, exhausted, and sleep the entire night; unfortunately that isn’t always the case.
Here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep so that you have the energy to pursue your career, raise your children and help your aging loved ones:
- Avoid the drive-thru. Picking up a quick snack or fast food may seem like a good idea in the moment, but if you’re already sleep deprived your body is craving sugar and carbs; snack foods and fast foods fill the bill. They will provide a quick burst of energy, but just as quickly lead to a crash. Add to the mix that these are mostly empty calories and you could be faced with a steady weight gain. Reach for an apple or a banana or even a handful of nuts to stave off hunger until you can sit down to a “real meal.”
- When it comes time for meals, make sure you take a breather and sit down to enjoy it. If you don’t have that luxury, then steer clear of calorie-rich meals as these will add to your listlessness. Eat small protein-filled meals throughout the day to sustain your energy at even levels. Grab some peanut butter and spread it on apples or celery; scramble some egg whites; have a dish of fresh fruit; eat some wheat toast with peanut butter; eat a tuna salad sandwich with sprouts, lettuce and tomatoes on whole wheat bread; drink a low-fat yogurt smoothie made with fresh fruit.
- Caffeine is not always your friend. Coffee may give you the boost you need to get going in the morning, and perhaps you simply enjoy starting the day with a cup of coffee. It’s best to steer clear of caffeinated drinks during the rest of the day though as your body will start to crave more and more to give you that burst of energy and that will lead to a bad night’s sleep. Alcohol consumption can also lead to sleepless nights so don’t overindulge.
- The pros and cons of napping. In some cases, if you simply can’t take another step, grabbing a short nap may help. If, however, you sleep too long, or too close to bedtime you won’t be able to sleep when you’ve called it a day. Consider taking a quick, cold shower as a way to wake yourself up and keep going. A warm shower, as you know, will relax you and this is best left for right before bedtime.
- Exercise can help negate tiredness. A brisk walk will refresh you both mentally and physically. A quick walk is also a great way to keep weight gain at bay.
- Dehydration can also lead to tiredness. Make sure you’re drinking water throughout the day to replenish yourself.
- Take a day off. Caregivers suffer from guilt if they feel they need a “day off” from caregiving, but they shouldn’t. You need to step away from the responsibilities on occasion and focus on yourself and your needs; doing this will help you be better able to face the duties of caregiver and may also help you sleep better at night if you know you are going to have a “day off.” Ask a friend or family member or ask your family doctor for information on hiring someone to come and stay with your aging loved ones so you can step away from the responsibility.
Taking care of yourself will make you more effective in all areas of your life.