The basic principles of self-care include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting sound sleep. But for many, sleep is often not easy. And pancreatic cancer caregivers, especially, may find sleep challenging for various reasons.
Because sleep is so critical to our overall health and well-being, the lack of it – or poor quality of sleep – is known to have a significant negative impact on health.
For caregivers, in particular, getting adequate sleep means they can better support their loved one.
Zach Weismann, a caregiver in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN) Survivor & Caregiver Network, knows this all too well.
“Everyone told me to take care of myself,” he said, “but after many late nights and not getting enough sleep, I got a cold and then wasn’t able to care for my mom at the same level I would have liked. I then had to keep my distance to ensure she didn’t catch my cold.”
PanCAN counts sleep as one of the ways caregivers should prioritize caring for themselves.
Here are four tips to help fall – and stay – asleep:
- Get into a bedtime routine. Consider reading, gentle stretching, relaxing music or meditation before bed to get into a restful frame of mind. Try not to watch TV or scan social media right before bedtime. Sue Alderson, also part of PanCAN’s Survivor & Caregiver Network, said she found meditation useful: “Meditation apps helped my mind calm down at night.” Also, aim to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day.
- Try to dismiss worries and stressful thoughts before bed. Difficult decisions, uncertainty and the impact of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Consider deep breathing and visualization – imagining a calm, peaceful situation or place – as a way to relax. Massage, aromatherapy and a hot bath before bed can also help ensure a more peaceful slumber. The scent of lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly each day, and eat right at night. Studies show that daily exercise enables sleep. And yoga, with its mind-body practice, can be beneficial just before bed. As for meals, stay away from late-night heavy or rich foods that could have a negative effect on your digestive system.
- Talk to your doctor. Your healthcare provider should know about your sleep patterns, if they are impairing your ability to function clearly. He or she can offer more helpful tips.
Additional ways of easing stress and focusing on relaxation can help caregivers learn how to better care for themselves when they’re caring for others.