Sleep deprivation is nothing to yawn at. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million report occasional sleeping problems. This doesn't even begin to reflect the number of folks for whom sleep is challenged due to additional factors like stress and
Caregivers for those living with Alzheimer's and related dementias may find the dilemma of sleep deprivation even more perplexing: to reduce stress, you need more sleep; to sleep better, you need to reduce stress.
Time to bust a few myths:
* You cannot make up for lost sleep. Just like lost
time, lost sleep is one commodity we can't replenish. In fact, sleeping in or longer a couple days a week can upset your body's internal clock, making a good night's rest even more elusive for those of us who are already sleep-challenged.
* You will not learn to need less sleep. You can fool
yourself into believing you can get by on less sleep: Truth is we can. But this isn't the same as training our bodies to need less sleep. We're born with a set sleep needs; ignoring this can lead to serious consequences, like poor job performance (remember: paid or unpaid, caregiving is our job), increased risks of accidents and a host of health issues too numerous to list here.
* Your sleep problems will not go away on their own. Whether due to sleep disorders or stresses related to care giving, sleep deprivation needs to be hit head-on if you want to get back to your fully functioning self. Forget about being tired: Lack of sleep makes us irritable, less patient, more easily agitated and can jeopardize and impair our judgment. Not a good recipe when it comes to caring for those who depend on us.
Admittedly, as caregivers our own sleep challenges
may stem from sleep issues our loved ones are having. Which is why it's important to address the sleep issues of all involved: wandering or confusing days with nights does not make for sound sleep for anyone. If this is the case, talk to your loved one's doctor. He or she may be able to make suggestions to address your loved ones sleep, including better sleep hygiene, environmental changes, behavior modification techniques or medications.
None of this addresses the bigger, all-consuming issue of time, though. Sometimes, there is just not enough - and sleep is almost always the first thing to go. Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes for this other than self-discipline.
So the next time you're tempted to forgo sleep in lieu of folding laundry, running the vacuum, worrying about tomorrow's meal plan, checking your bank account online and shopping for groceries at midnight, remember this: Everything we do or don't do to take care of ourselves directly impacts our abilities to care for our loved ones.
For more information on sleep disorders, sleep deprivation and suggestions for improving quality of sleep speak to your health care professional. You may also want to gain more information by visiting the following websites: