There are several possible causes of insomnia and many caregivers find that there is usually a combination of reasons why they may be experiencing sleep problems. Here are some common causes of insomnia:
Stress, Anxiety, and Worry: Being a cancer caregiver can be stressful, especially if the patient is a spouse, child, or parent. You may be worried about his/her condition and also simply overwhelmed with the important task of providing around-the-clock care to someone else. These are completely normal feelings, but as the effects of not getting enough sleep increase or begin to interfere with your health as insomnia does, it may signal that you may be experiencing caregiver burnout.
Caffeine or Energy Drink Consumption: Caffeine is a major cause of insomnia and is often relied upon by people with insomnia to increase energy during the day. Insomnia causes fatigue and in turn, you may be tempted to consume coffee, soft drinks, or energy drinks to boost energy to make it through the day. It may feel like it's helping in the short term, but caffeine may be the root of the problem. Consider giving up caffeine and energy drinks, or don't consume them after 2:00 p.m.
Medication Side Effects: Sleep disturbances can be a side effect of many medications. Check possible side effects online or consult your pharmacist or doctor to see if sleep disturbances are a side effect of the medications you are taking.
Erratic Sleep Pattern: Caring for someone with a serious illness like cancer can cause your regular sleep pattern to become disrupted. Waking in the middle of the night to give medicines or tend to other caregiving tasks can cause your sleep cycle to become erratic. The natural response is to nap when you can, but it ultimately leads to even more irregular sleep cycles. This can greatly contribute to the development of insomnia.
Insomnia can also be related to certain diseases and conditions, like overactive thyroid, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
Treating InsomniaThe overall stress of caregiving is often the root cause of insomnia among caregivers. Remember, to care for another person, you have to take care of you first. This means getting respite care if possible and taking the time to relax and do something you enjoy. You may feel guilty -- this is normal, but you deserve to to have time to relax. It's therapeutic! You'd be surprised at what a few hours each week can do to decrease stress levels!
Many times, part of reducing stress means asking for help from others. Enlist the help from family and friends to help with chores, meals, and caregiving. If this isn't possible, there may be help through religious or social organizations.
Your doctor is a valuable resource for treating insomnia. Medications to help you sleep are available, along with non-pharmological therapies. Based on the severity of your insomnia, your doctor will recommend an appropriate treatment. How is insomnia diagnosed?
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