Interrupted Sleep Can Be Harmful for Caregivers

a woman smiling
Curated by
Kristen Sachs
Content via The Caregiver Space
The Caregiver Space
Curated by
Kristen Sachs

Harriet, whose husband became a paraplegic in 2013, writes about a topic that many caregivers often experience: the lack of sleep - or more specifically - interrupted sleep.

person puts pillows over head in an effort to try to sleep

After her husband came home from the hospital, Harriet found herself up in the middle of the night helping with his care.


"Catheterization was part of this care. Every morning at 3 a.m. the alarm clock went off, and I stumbled out of bed to help my husband catheterize. Afterwards he usually went back to sleep. I didn’t. Instead, I tossed and turned and worried about the coming day."

This routine continued, and Harriet continued to get an inadequate amount of sleep. She found herself drained of energy and longing for a nap in the middle of the day.

According to Rick Nauert, PhD, "interrupted sleep can be as harmful as no sleep." And interrupted sleep can cause caregivers to have slower reaction times and impaired thinking. It can also have negative effects on a caregiver's personal health such as an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Prolonged interrupted sleep can lead to sleep depravation, which can be very dangerous for both a caregiver and the person receiving care.

Harriet examined her and her husband's routine, and discovered that a few changes would allow her to get longer periods of sleep. "To give me an extra hour of sleep," she writes, "I changed the paid caregivers’ arrival time from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. I followed the advice of my husband’s occupational therapist. Her idea: make a catheterization kit and let my husband, a retired physician, catheterize himself. I made the kit and set it on his bedside table." Harriet also started her and her husband's bedtime routine 45 minutes earlier to help add in some extra shut eye. And she also continued to take naps during the day when needed, but made sure not to sleep more than an hour.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is essential to maintain good physical and mental health. Be sure to share this post with a caregiver who could benefit from the tips offered by Harriet.

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