Coping Emotionally

Sleep Problems

What are caregiver sleep problems?
What can I do about my sleep problems?
When should I talk to my doctor about my sleep problems?

 

 


What are caregiver sleep problems?

Sleep problems include insomnia (the inability to fall or stay asleep), hypersomnia (problems staying awake), and poor quality sleep. Sleep problems can change the way you think and feel. If you haven’t had a good night's sleep, you may feel tired, irritable, and/or jittery. You may not feel like doing anything—even things that are usually enjoyable.

Caregivers often have sleep problems. You may be getting up during the night to help the patient. Or, you may be staying up late to get things done. Depression, anxiety or fatigue from caregiving can cause sleep problems.

Back to top


What can I do about my sleep problems?

Here are tips for getting a good night sleep:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Use your bed for sleeping only. Don’t watch TV, read, or pay bills in bed.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, comfortable, and at a consistent temperature. Try a radio, fan, or mood music to filter out noises.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. If you are hungry at night, try a light snack with warm milk.
  • Get help with caregiving.
  • Get exercise during the day (but not right before bed).
  • Take a warm bath an hour before going to bed.
  • Try to deal with problems or worries during the day, and set them aside when you go to bed.
  • Avoid tobacco. Nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Avoid caffeine after 3 pm, including coffee, colas, black teas, and chocolate.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.
  • Try relaxation exercises or meditation before bed.
  • Ask others to avoid calling when you’re usually asleep unless it’s an emergency.
  • Ask someone to give you a backrub or foot massage at the end of the day.
  • If sleep medications are prescribed, follow directions carefully.

Here are some additional tips if you are sleeping too much (more than 12 hours per day):

  • Avoid boredom. Distract yourself with hobbies or other activities when you feel sleepy during the day.
  • Avoid sweets.
  • Avoid peanuts and dairy products, which can make you sluggish.

    Back to top


When should I talk to my doctor about my sleep problems?

Talk to your doctor if you have:

  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Confusion on waking
  • Depression
  • Frequent waking during the night
  • Inability to get back to sleep after waking
  • Inability to carry out daily activities
  • Sleep problems lasting longer than three weeks
  • Overuse of sleep medication

    Back to top


Next learn about…

Getting help with caregiving
Talking with family & friends
Getting exercise

Article Topics: 

Avoiding Substance Abuse

What is substance abuse?
What can I do to avoid substance abuse?
What can I do if I have a problem with substance abuse?
How can I talk to others about substance abuse problems?
Where can I get more information on substance abuse?

 


What is substance abuse?

Substance abuse is the overuse of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medications. The line between use and abuse is not always clear. A person has to decide where the line is for him or herself.

Substance abuse may feel like a loss of control, an inability to stop using a substance once you start, a dependence on the substance, and/or cravings for it. You may have a strong urge to which you cannot "Just say no." You may find you need more and more of the substance to getan affect. And, if you stop using it, you may experience nausea, sweating, shaking, vomiting, and anxiety.

Caregivers tend to have higher levels of stress, anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, loneliness, sleep problems, and fear. This puts you at greater risk of mental and physical health problems, including substance abuse.

Back to top


What can I do to avoid substance abuse?

To prevent substance abuse:


What can I do if I have a problem with substance abuse?

To get help with substance abuse:

  • Admit the problem.
  • Talk openly with your doctor.
  • Call your local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) hotline or go to an AA meeting.
  • Call the National Drug & Alcohol Treatment Hotline at 800-662-HELP.

    Back to top


How can I talk to others about substance abuse problems?

Here are some ideas for talking with family:

  • Be open about how caregiving is affecting you. Talk about your feelings.
  • Be honest if you’re worried about how you’re using alcohol and/or other substances. Talk about how it’s affecting you.
  • Ask your family how it’s affecting them.
  • Ask your family to help you find help.

    Back to top


Where can I get more information on substance abuse?

Here are some helpful websites:


Next learn about…

Getting help with caregiving
Eating well
Getting exercise
Staying healthy

Article Topics: 

Eating Well

Why is it important to pay attention to my eating now?
How can I eat better?
Where can I get more information on eating well?

 

 


Why is it important to pay attention to my eating now?

Eating right can be difficult when you’re caring for someone with cancer. Appointments may get in the way of meals. You might not like the food at the hospital or transfusion center. You may not have time or energy to cook. If your loved one is not eating on a regular schedule, you may be less motivated to prepare meals. But caregiving can stress your body and spirit. You're at greater risk of getting sick. So is the person with cancer. Eating well will help you both stay healthy. A healthy diet can help protect you from heart disease, bone loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses.

Back to top


How can I eat better?

Here are some tips for eating right:

  • Get help with caregiving so you have time to eat well.
  • Plan ahead for meals. Prepare some meals in advance. Consider asking a friend to help, or try an online meal-planning tool like the Interactive Menu Planner, Healthy Eating Pyramid, or MyPyramid Menu Planner.
  • Avoid skipping meals. Pack a lunch if you’re going to be taking the patient to treatment during the day.
  • Try to get a variety of healthy foods and beverages each day. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Read food labels so you know what you are eating, and try to avoid saturated fats (cheeses, some meats, whole milk, butter, etc.), transfats (snack foods, frozen dinners, cakes, cookies, margarine, fried foods), cholesterol, and added sugars
  • Limit your intake of alcohol.
  • Try to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 and1/2 cups of vegetables daily.
  • Drink 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.
  • Eat plenty of fish and nuts.
  • Cook with vegetable oils (olive, canola, sunflower, soy and corn) rather than butter.
  • Drink beverages without added sugars or sweeteners.
  • Limit salt.
  • Keep healthy snacks like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, or low-fat string cheese on hand.
  • Keep a food diary for three days. Write down what, when, where, and how much you eat. Your food diary will help you understand your eating habits, and what areas you need to work on.

Back to top


Where can I get more information on eating well?

Here are some helpful websites:

You might also consider asking your doctor or a nutritionist for help in planning a balanced diet.

Back to top


Next learn about…

Getting help with caregiving
Getting exercise
Staying healthy
Coping with caregiving

Article Topics: 

Getting Exercise

Why is it important to exercise now?
How do I start exercising?
What can I do to get exercise?
How much exercise do I need?
Where can I get more Information on exercising?

 


Why is it important to exercise now?

Exercise is important for good health. Just a few minutes of activity a day can improve your overall well-being. It can give you more energy, reduce stress, and lift your mood. It can also decrease your risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. Caregivers that exercise regularly are less likely to be depressed, anxious, angry, or stressed.

Back to top


How do I start exercising?

Talk your doctor before starting an exercise program. If he or she gives you the go-ahead, make a list of some activities you enjoy or have always wanted to try. Then look into exercise programs at nearby fitness centers, community colleges, local senior or community centers, etc. You can probably find classes for your age group and fitness level. For a personal fitness program, consider a personal trainer. Your doctor or the local health club can recommend one. If exercise has not been part of your daily routine, start slowly. Begin at a comfortable level, and add a little more activity each time you work out.

Back to top


What can I do to get exercise?

Here are some things try:

  • If you can, take a daily walk around your neighborhood or to a local park.
  • When the hospital staff comes in to take the patient’s vitals, take a brisk walk up and down the hall.
  • When you’re on the phone, walk rather than sit while you talk.
  • When you’re not with the patient, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park your car a bit farther away from your destination..
  • Do yard work.
  • Get an exercise “buddy.” Ask a friend or family member to exercise with you, or to stay with the patient while you exercise.
  • Bike to work, to run errands, visit friends or just for fun.
  • If you have time, take a dance class, play a game of tennis, or play some volleyball.
  • Go for a jog, swim or fast walk.
  • Jump rope.
  • Do some push-ups, or sit-ups.
  • Lift weights.
  • Do “chair” exercises like knee lifts, shoulder circles, and head/neck stretches. You can do these while sitting with your loved one at home or in the hospital.

Many people find it helpful to keep track of their weekly exercise activities. Seeing your progress can motivate you. You can use this worksheet.

Back to top


How much exercise do I need?

Try to get 30-60 minutes of exercise 4 to 6 times a week. Include aerobic and strengthening activities. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and makes you breathe hard. Strength-training builds muscle in your arms, shoulders, chest, stomach, back, hips, and legs.

Try to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. Try starting with 10 minutes. Do strength-training at least 2 days a week. Try exercising each muscle group 8-12 times a session. Don’t worry if you can’t do that much. Anything is better than nothing!

Back to top


Where can I get more information on exercising?

Here are some helpful websites:


Next learn about…

Getting help with caregiving
Coping with caregiving
Eating well
Staying healthy

Article Topics: 

Staying Healthy

Why do I need to think about my own health now?
What do I need to do to stay healthy?

 

 

 


Why do I need to think about my own health now?

Caregivers often brush aside their own needs. They tend not to go to the doctor as often as they should, and many do not get the preventative care that they need. But, caregiving can be physically and emotionally demanding. As a caregiver, you are at greater risk for colds, infections, and chronic diseases. Taking time to take care for yourself is important. 

Back to top


What do I need to do to stay healthy?

It’s important that you have regular check-ups with your medical doctor, eye doctor, and dentist.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends you get the following on a regular basis:

  • Everyone: Dental checkups and cleanings, eye exams, blood pressure checks, weight and height measurements, blood work (e.g. blood glucose, thyroid function, and cholesterol), fecal occult blood tests (for people age 50 or older or as directed by your doctor), and colonoscopies (as directed by your doctor).
  • Women only: Mammograms (for women age 40 or as directed by your doctor), Pap smears, bone density tests (as directed by your doctor), and breast self-exams.
  • Men only: Prostate exams (for men age 40 or older or as directed by your doctor), and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests(as directed by your doctor).

Call your doctor to schedule your next appointment, or add a reminder on your calendar to do so later. If you don’t have a family doctor, eye doctor and/or dentist, ask a friend to recommend one. Also ask others to stay with the patient while you are at your appointments, and/or to remind you of your appointments and annual check-ups.

It’s also important that you take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, and getting exercise.

Back to top


Next learn about…

Getting help with caregiving
Avoiding substance abuse
Getting exercise
Eating well

Article Topics: 
This website was created to provide information, education, and support that will help cancer caregivers care for themselves and their family members. It is not meant as medical advice. Please check with your physician for any advice about your health.