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Getting enough sleep

We all need sleep. It is a vital part of our daily life and keeps us healthy, both physically and mentally.

If you have caring responsibiities, it is not always easy to get enough sleep. Occasionally, having a disturbed night will affect you the following day, but if you are having trouble sleeping for longer than a night or two, then everything will seem harder. 

You may find that you are constantly tired, go to sleep during the day, have trouble concentrating and making decisions, and start feeling depressed. Long-term lack of sleep may also increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

When you're caring for someone you may need to see to their needs during the night bringing practical obstacles to getting enough rest. Sometimes though the barriers to sleeping well are more psychological. Caring for someone can often bring extra pressures, such as money worries, emotional worry, isolation, and having no time to yourself.

All of these can contribute to stress, which can make it hard to get to sleep, and keep you awake at night. People who are feeling anxious or depressed also often experience sleep problems. Talk to your GP if you have trouble sleeping, as they can give you advice to help with this.

There are things you can do to help make it easier to sleep and to improve the quality of your sleep.

Tips for better sleep

These tips may help you improve your sleeping habits:

  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable – not too hot, cold or noisy.
  • Try not to work or have your computer or TV in your bedroom.
  • Get some regular exercise – swimming and walking are ideal – but try not to do this too near to bedtime as it may keep you awake.
  • Take a look at your mattress. It should be firm enough to support you comfortably, but not so firm that you feel perched on top of it. You should try to replace your bed every 10 years so that it maintains maximum support and comfort.
  • Try to cut down on tea and coffee in the evening.
  • Try not to eat or drink a lot late at night - have your evening meal earlier if you can.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol. It may help you fall asleep, but makes you more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Spend some time relaxing before you go to bed – a warm bath may help. There are many different relaxation techniques. You could try tapes and books available in your local library or you could join a class.
  • Try to keep a regular pattern of going to bed and rising at the same time every day, even if you are not tired
  • Keep a notepad by your bed so that if you are worried about something, you can write it down and be ready to deal with it the next day.
  • If you still cannot sleep, try not to lie there worrying. Get up and do something you find relaxing like reading, watching TV or listening to quiet music. After a while you may feel tired enough to go to bed again.
  • Complementary therapies such as massage or aromatherapy can be a good way to relax. 
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While the tips listed above may help with sleeping problems, if sleeplessness becomes intolerable, a visit to your GP may help.

It is particularly important to see your GP if you are suffering with stress, anxiety or any physical ailment, so that you can start getting treatment. Even just talking to your GP may help ease your worries. Knowing that someone is taking your concerns seriously does make a difference and can help you to sleep better.

If you have not already had a carer’s assessment with someone from your local council, ask for one. Your local council will find out the support services that will help you as a carer.

Contact the carer support groups in your area. They may be able to offer sitting services, respite care and emotional support, all of which may help you feel less stressed, and help you get a better night’s sleep.

Remember to talk to your family and friends. The people who care about you will want to know if you are struggling and they can offer support and friendship.

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