A Carer’s Guide to Staying Awake
Sleep - it's one of the most talked about topics amongst carers - usually focussed around 'the lack of it'. Caring is far from a 9-5 job.
Much of the time, we're focussed on how to get a good night's sleep, around our caring role. But this isn't always the case! What about when an unexpected event happens?
Those events that see you in a hospital all night or being responsible for close observations through the night at home. Often after chronic poor sleep, and whilst managing an array of emotions.
All of a sudden, we're not finding ways to sneak in some sleep, but to stay awake, when we're often already shattered!
I recently went through this exact scenario, but when I reached out in our Facebook Group, I was met with warmth, empathy and a flurry of great suggestions from our caring community (many of whom were awake with me!). Thank you!
I've pulled all of our carer community tips into this blog, in the hope they'll help others!
1. Set an alarm in case you do fall asleep
Alarms on your phone are a useful way to keep to a schedule or routine throughout the night. They also help you to keep to time without clock watching, allowing you to switch off or ‘rest your eyes’ when you get the chance.
2. Set yourself a personal task or mission
Whether it’s a hobby, housework or a project, keeping your body busy can help keep you awake in the long hours of the early morning. Crocheting is popular within the Mobilise Community but other suggestions included DIY, researching something or getting a job off the to do list done. However it’s worth remembering that the main goal is to keep awake so don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get it finished.
3. Keep moving
It’s incredibly hard to fall asleep whilst walking about and so getting up and moving is a great way to stay awake. Walking helps to pump more oxygen around the body which will help increase your energy levels. It can also help to move to another room or position every now and then as a way to change your environment.
4. Find something interesting to watch
I decided to watch back to back Christmas films but watching something that captures your interest allows you to immerse yourself in something for the length of an episode or film. Whilst your eyes are on the screen and off the clock, it feels like time doesn't move as slowly.
5. Talk to others who are also awake
If you’re awake, chances are that you’re not the only one. If any of your family members or friends are night owls, the middle of the night could be a great time to catch up. The advice I was given was to use something like Facebook messenger because you can see who’s online, rather than waking someone who was asleep! The Mobilise Community Facebook group is good for late night conversations too, I know I found lots of support there on my latest all nighter!
Whilst coffee (or tea) does not replace sleep, it can help us to feel more alert when we haven’t had much sleep. It’s also a good 5 minute breather for ourselves throughout the night. Another possible alternative is green tea. It’s all about finding what works for you.
Drinking plenty of water can help you stay alert. Dehydration can cause your body to feel tired and headaches so drinking extra water can help keep those at bay. A splash of water on your hands and face can also be a refreshing way to keep you awake too.
8. Look after you and rest if / when you can
When someone else needs us, it can be easy to forget about our own needs or put them aside. This isn’t sustainable long term so looking after you is important for you and the person you are looking after. Having a power nap or resting your eyes can be important for a recharge.
Getting a good night's sleep when you can must be a priority. If you are doing night after night, it might be worth considering inviting someone else in to take a night so that you can sleep. If this becomes your new norm, please also speak with your GP or social worker about your enhanced caring, and additional support needs. Remember you're entitled to a Carers' Assessment, and a review of any original support from a previous Carers' Assessment. You can use our mini Carers Assessment tool to get started.
A huge thank you to everyone who commented with their advice. It helped me hugely and I’m sure that this will help others too. If you have a suggestion to add to the list, please let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other things you might like to read and share:
First steps for getting support in our caring roles.