Saturday, September 20, 2014

Catching ZZZ's Caregivers Snoozing On The Job!

     Thirteen years ago I was tired, REALLY tired.  It was a Saturday, and driving the 15 miles down the expressway at 8AM to my office, was beyond difficult for me, and I didn’t know why.  It wasn’t until, “Hey, didn’t mean to disturb you doc, but you have 5 patients waiting in 5 different rooms, and a waiting room full of patient’s to see, too!"  My assistant left the room with a chuckle, but I wasn’t laughing. I had been in practice for over 5 years and although it was only a 5 minute unintentional snooze, I had NEVER fallen asleep on the job before!!! I thought, “What is going on with me?  I am tired all the time, can’t stop eating,  and had been extra cranky with my husband!” Well, a blood test confirmed the biggest surprise of my life, I was pregnant!!

     My case may have been unique, but in general, caregivers sleeping on the job are not unique. For the record,  there are many reasons (other than pregnancy)  why some caregivers are snoozing instead of working, and I’m not making excuses for this, because I am strongly opposed to this practice. However, I think it is important to understand, “why” some caregivers are sleeping on the job.I think the link between sleep deprivation and caregiver burnout  levels in time will be more and more transparent. And this is not a small problem because we are currently facing a caregiver shortage in America. If more caregivers were getting 8-10 hours of restful sleep at night, we could possibly find a way to curb one factor leading to the burnout levels that are currently being reported in health publications.

     Many of caregivers today, (myself included) have interrupted sleep.  If we are 24/7 caregivers, it is not unusual to be awakened several times during the night.  In fact, in some cases, people report, (whether they are caring for a baby, an aging parent with dementia, ALS, cancer, a returning veteran, or a terminally ill patient ), to not sleeping at all.  There are also emotional tolls that could keep us awake. Thoughts of empathy and compassion for our patients and clients that we take home with us, etc. And before we know it, the sun is up, and we are expected to rise and shine to start another day. However,  unless we are able to get enough sleep every night, each day is met with more and more fatigue.

   Sleep studies concur that adults need at least 8 hours of restful sleep for overall health, and if people are lacking in sleep they not only lose their productive capacity, but can become obese and depressed. How many caregivers have you observed who actually look fit, rested and vibrant? More likely than not, your observations would be the opposite. Lack of sleep increases the production of cortisol (the stress hormone), showing wear and tear on our bodies by creating visceral belly fat. The less sleep we get, the more belly fat we will most likely  produce.  And according to the Mayo Clinic, visceral belly fat not only increases our risk of  cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer, but  in normal weight individuals,  having increased visceral belly fat raises the risk  factors of  cardiovascular disease which  can lead to a premature death.  Lack of sleep affects our energy levels at work, making us less productive which could possibly affect our opportunities for advancement and promotion.  And let’s not forget the coffee-sugar ups and downs that occur when we are fatigued. It’s a roller coaster of drinking caffeine laden beverages, and craving carbs, all from being fatigued which can keep many of us in the plus sized categories as caregivers. (I should know, I've been there myself!)

   There are many products from prescribed sleeping pills, to herbal teas that people use on a nightly basis to support a restful sleep. Since we at “Caregivers Get Fit” prefer to go the natural route, we cannot comment on the prescribed sleeping pills, but have found some natural sleep support alternatives.The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience says that:" Melatonin treatment has been reported to be effective in the treatment of disorders such as jet lag and delayed sleep phase syndrome." Melatonin is a hormone that is produced naturally in the brain. It affects our sleep cycle rhythms and has an influence on body temperature.If we are exposed to computers late at night, are working the graveyard shift, or are in the 50 and older crowd, it is possible that our melatonin levels could be low. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center:  "Melatonin has strong antioxidant effects. Preliminary evidence suggests that it may help strengthen the immune system."

     Some people take melatonin to help them to sleep. ( Since amounts of melatonin vary per individual, it may be best for one to get dosage advice, if taking melatonin in tablet form, from a health professional.) There is a natural sleep support system product that many people are using today, which is inexpensive and not in a tablet form but in a spray. The product that I have used myself for sleep support, is a spearmint flavored, proprietary sleep support blend containing tart cherry  juice, lemon balm, chamomile flower extract, valerian root extract and melatonin, ALL blended together in an oral spray.  It can be found at:  (Look for Sleep Support and Renewal, also a great link for my favorite Weight Loss Support Systems.)

      Another natural option for sleep support, that people rarely think about has a muscle, joint and bone, or musculoskeletal origin. Chemical, physical or emotional stress factors can lead to cranial sacral, (top and bottom of your back), craniomandibular, (TMJ)  or spinal misalignments ( your spine and neck),   leading to muscle spasms, and hormonal imbalances etc, which could affect your ability to have peaceful and restful sleep. Something that regular chiropractic care could easily address. See: AJ Chiropr Med. Sep 2010; 9(3): 121–126.

  The good news is that finding ways to get 8-10 hours of sleep a night can be a helpful first step in losing unwanted pounds, and in gaining vitality!  Here are a few suggestions for better sleeping habits that were found on the National Sleep Foundation's website:

Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
 If you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
Exercise daily.
 Even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
Evaluate your room.  Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep.
     Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive.
     Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms.
Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
     Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening
      .If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing.

Have a great weekend, and happy snoozing!!! Look for another post on: 9/23/14 To subscribe to this blog, go to:  (leave your email on "contact us.")

Copyright 2014 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama  Nicey    All Rights Reserved
The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics.  How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.

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