Carers and sleep problems

The demands of caring can be relentless and stressful, and many carers will experience sleep problems as a result. But lack of sleep can affect your resilience, making it harder to cope with stress thus creating a vicious cycle.

Some carers provide 24 hour nursing assistance to a family member with high care needs. Others care for people who are fairly independent but may need help occasionally.

The greater the physical and emotional demands of your caring role, the more likely you are to feel stress. For some carers, relationships can change under the pressures of illness and adversity. There might be greater levels of conflict and frustration in your family. You may even be caring for someone you have always had a difficult relationship with.

Aside from the worries about the person they are caring for, carers may also worry about juggling paid employment and whether they will have enough money. Disturbed sleep or insomnia is a common sign that stress levels are too high. It is important to acknowledge that your health and wellbeing is important to building the resilience and capacity to cope with caring. See the tips over the page on getting a good night’s sleep and then think about getting some help to manage the stresses of your caring role.

To help you last the distance, make sure you access all the support that is available to you. Support for the person you care for It can be frustrating not understanding the symptoms and behaviours of the person you care for. Arming yourself with information can help you (and the person you care for) to feel more in control and confident. Many carers say that what would help them most is better services for the person they care for. But it can be difficult to know where to begin, or how to find the organisation that offers the support and services your family needs.

Speaking to your family GP is a great place to start. And a good website for general health information is Health Direct. Support for you Talk to your GP about possible treatments for your sleep problems. There are also a number of organisations which offer supports and services to help carers to reduce stress and balance their caring role.

Quick tips

When you are caring for someone else you often put your own needs last. These tips are a reminder that your own health and wellbeing is important; they are also practical strategies that can help to manage stress:

• Eat well - a nutritious balanced diet will give you the fuel your body needs to keep on caring. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and cut down on sugary and processed snacks;

• Exercise regularly - physical exercise can relieve tension and reduce stress levels;

• Share the care - let family members and friends know that their help and support is welcome;

• Talk it over - with a friend or family member or with a professional counsellor. Join a Carer Support Group and meet other people to share tips and experiences;

• Take a break - do something that you love...or do nothing but relax and recharge your batteries.