Caregiver Confessions: When You're Sleeping Poorly -- Or Not at All

Firsthand advice from a caregiver who's been there

Sleep problems are rampant among caregivers -- although they often try to hide this fact from family members and the person they're caring for, out of misplaced worry that it's selfish to complain.

Caregivers also get embarrassed about lack of sleep for another reason: "I felt like not being able to sleep well was just another thing I was failing at," says TV-radio personality Leeza Gibbons, founder of the Leeza's Place communities for caregivers.

Watch Leeza's advice on coping with sleep deprivation.

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Here are more tips on getting better sleep:

Recognize that you're not in a sleep-supportive situation. Caregivers often fail to realize how much tension and anxiety builds up during the day. The body holds this stress and adds it to whatever issues your loved one has that may also be upending your odds of a good night's rest.

Target the tension. Spend time in the morning and, especially, at night, simply sitting still and breathing deeply. A few slow inhalations and exhalations will literally slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, making your body more sleep-ready.

Keep moving through the day. There's a strong association between getting exercise by day and sleeping better at night. Even two short walks of five to ten minutes each can improve your ability to rest. Can't get out of the house? Try walking stairs.

Note the diet-sleep connection. Did you know that food cravings for salty, fatty, high-carb snacks are linked to poor sleep?

See also:

When You're Feeling Guilt

When You Don't Feel Appreciated

When You're Sleeping Poorly

When You're in Over Your Head

When You Lose Your Temper

Family Is Being Torn Apart

When You're Just Not Eating Right

When You Rarely See Friends

When You Resent Being a Caregiver

When No One Will Help

Feeling Anticipatory Grief

After Caregiving Ends

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

about 2 years, said...

It's so great to be able to listen to Lisa talk about all the things I'm going through.

over 4 years, said...

Most of these articles MISS THE MARK. In caring for loved one of dementia, it is not that we don't want to sleep, it's that we cannot. Patients with dementia are up at all hours of the night either using the restroom, moving their bodies, not complying with CPAP, wandering, etc. They cannot be left alone, which makes you tethered to the patient. Thankfully I have a husband who rotates with me every other night, but we have two other children, jobs, etc., and taking care of a child with dementia is extremely chaotic not to mention fatiguing. Articles should focus more on how we can get loved ones with nuerological diseases to sleep so we can have a regular sleep schedule which in turn, allows for better care of loved ones.

over 6 years, said...

Something I did with regards to medications was I listed them in a word document on my computer and put the "current address" at the top so any time I opened the file or changed the file it changed the date to that date. This way I could always make sure I had a current copy. I printed it out every time my mother had a doctor's appointment with one of her three doctors. This allowed me to make sure they all had a current and complete list.

over 6 years, said...

She's so right about blaming oneself to not sleeping - on top of not sleeping! And food cravings I didn't know about.

over 6 years, said...

When my mother was at her worst (Stage IV or End Stage emphysema) I stayed up all night so I could check on her every few minutes. I must have walked 10 miles through the night back and forth to her room making sure she was still breathing. She woke many times through the night with exacerbations and many nights I was the breathing coach at 2 or 3 am. the all nighters allowed me to research emphysema and COPD and alternatives since the drugs don't work except to mask symptoms. After more than 6500 hours of research I found enough research from reputable sources that were researching other diseases and applied their findings to emphysema. Many of them worked once I developed the logic for reversing emphysema. I eventually realized there was a paghogen proliferating in my mother's lungs. It had to be stopped in order to stop the disease progression. It then had to be killed. I accomplished all this by starving the pathogen, restoring the compromised immune system and then amplifying her immune response. I was pretty surprised when it worked even though it followed sound pathological and scientific principles. I never would have found this information if it was not for staying up all night for a year and a half. I slept from about 7 am to 11 am. I drank more coffee during that year and a half than I have in any other 10 year period in my life. Thank you Juan Valdez. I probably would have gotten sick if it was not for the anti-pathogenic diet I got from cancer researchers at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. They used the diet to starve cancer. I used it to starve the pathogen that proliferates and causes emphysema and COPD to get worse and to keep myself from getting sick. If you are staying up all night or have COPD try the diet: then go to the diet page.

over 6 years, said...

You are so right about the diet connection. I began using a diet that is used in cancer research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine that starves the cancer and other pathogens causing them to weaken a great deal. This diet is also used by Dr. Pescatore, M.D. in his 8-step cure for asthma and allergies. My mother, who was in Stage IV or End Stage emphysema at the time, began improving in only two weeks. It apparently starved the pathogen that is growing in the lungs of emphysema and COPD patients. This was the first improvement she had shown since her diagnosis. After that I began using two supplements used in the cancer research which provided additional improvement in my mother's condition and a few from Dr. Pescatore, a few from Dr. Baroody and found some additional alternatives to medications for eliminating inflammation. All this information was from reputable physicians and reserchers even one from Mayo Clinic. After 17 months my mom was completely well, something I was told by her doctors was impossible. I wrote a book about her struggles and eventual recovery from emphysema and COPD which has now helped nearly 2000 people in 8 different countries. My main point was that it all started with the diet. I would lay down very tired and then 30 minutes later I was wide awake. I had prayed for 8 months every night for God to lead me to information that would save my mother's life even though it was supposed to be impossible. I knew everything is possible for God so I went right to the source. I did more than 6500 hours of research before I got my mom well but the first step is starving the pathogen that is proliferating and causing the disease to progress. I am glad now that I could only sleep 30 minutes. I would sleep for 4 hours in the morning after my mom would wake up and I would give her breakfast. If you want the diet, visit the diet page at: I used it too and I think it was the reason I didn't get sick from lack of sleep. Thanks for all the good info.