6.  The Exhausted Caregiver
Caregiver Series - Part 6

I have always had trouble sleeping and I have a bad habit of falling asleep with the television on. How many of you are guilty of that? I also need some kind of white noise to be able to sleep. If I wake up in the night, I usually have trouble falling back to sleep as well. On nights when I am experiencing more pain than normal, it can be very difficult to get much sleep at all.

My poor sleep habits became even worse after my son was injured. While we were at the rehab hospital, I was averaging three to four hours of sleep a night. Even though I knew the medical staff was excellent, it was hard for me to leave my son’s hospital room at night to sleep at the apartment I had for the first thirty days there. After that, I was sleeping on a chair that pulled out into a bed in his hospital room. Though I often got to bed earlier, the hospital noises and staff coming into the room at all hours of the night easily woke me. Sometimes I would try to grab a quick nap during the day but that was a rarity due to all the daytime activity.

Once home, my son’s needs during the night resulted in a very broken night’s sleep for me. Initially, he required catheterization and turning to prevent pressure sores every four hours. The schedule we worked out meant I went to bed late and then I would wake up in the early morning hours to care for him. I often had trouble going back to sleep after taking care of his needs though. Eventually, I became so exhausted that when I finally did go back to sleep, I would sleep so hard that if my son needed me and called my cell phone, he would have to call several times before I would wake up. That frustrated him and scared me.

After about six months of being home from rehab, my son learned to do his night time care without my help. Unfortunately, I had other stressors going on in my life which resulted in continuing sleep difficulties. The constant lack of sleep was causing me to become more depressed and anxious so I sought out help from my doctor. He put me on a low dose of medication to help me sleep better and I began working on changes to improve my quality of sleep. Though I am still guilty of falling asleep with the television on, there are things I have implemented to improve my sleep habits.

1) I try to read an enjoyable book instead of watching television.

2) I try not to drink caffeine after 2:00 pm.

3) I do not pay bills or deal with anything stressful if I can help it a couple of hours before bedtime.

4) I have white noise running at all times.

5) I take a shower at night instead of in the morning.

6) I don’t eat a heavy meal late at night.

7) If I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep after 15 minutes, I will read for a while until I get sleepy.

8) I get up and walk around if I am hurting a lot.

9) I try to get in a power nap during the early afternoon if I slept poorly the night before.

Now one of the biggest obstacles to getting a good night’s sleep is my son’s cat Stormy. But that is another story all together. He may be mischievous and likes to wake me up around 5:30 every morning by knocking things off of the nightstand but he is also loving and cuddly too. Having Stormy snuggle with me at night has helped calmed my frazzled nerves often.

Caroline

Click here for Part 7 of Caroline's Caregivers Series

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