Caregivers and Care Recipients Face Sleep Disorders. Can Supplements Improve the Quality of Sleep?

Sleep is an essential part of our well-being. Getting enough sleep is vital. Lack of sleep adversely affects health and quality of life. Older Adults and their caregivers are at increased risk for sleeping problems.

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Caregivers and Care Recipients Face Sleep Disorders. Can Supplements Improve the Quality of Sleep?
2 Min Read June 5th, 2017 Updated:October 14th, 2022

A commonly known fact is that sleep is an essential part of our well-being. Many deprived of a good night's sleep will complain about a headache the following day, but dealing with sleeplessness night after night can have serious adverse effects on one's physical and mental health. 

Informal family caregivers, as well as professional caregivers, often deal with exhaustion and problems with sleep. Getting the appropriate amount of sleep is vital in maintaining physical and emotional health. When you are healthy, you can better deal with the physical and emotional demands of being a caregiver. 

The older adults they are caring for also face their own sleep problems. This cycle of poor sleep impacts everyone, and the consequences of lack of sleep impact caregivers and care recipients.

Caregivers Lacking Sleep

In a recent survey, the CDC found that 36.7% of caregivers reported getting insufficient sleep. The need for caregivers is expected to grow due to the continued increases in the older adult population. 

It is, therefore, essential that anyone delivering long-term health care pays extra attention to providing ample opportunities for rest, including an appropriate sleep routine.

Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, who studies sleep at the University of Rochester, says your brain works when your sleep. The sleep services like a drainage system by removing some of the proteins linked with Alzheimer's disease. These toxins were removed twice as fast from the brain during sleep.

When we sleep, the brain totally changes function. It becomes almost like a kidney, removing waste from the system.

Dr. Kenneth Wright, Jr., a sleep researcher at the University of Colorado, says that everything from blood vessels to the immune system uses sleep as a time for repair.

There are certain repair processes that occur in the body mostly, or most effectively, during sleep. If you don't get enough sleep, those processes are going to be disturbed.

Don't expect caregivers to "catch up" on their sleep on off hours or days off. For the most part, Wright says that research shows catching up on sleep won't work.

If you have one bad night's sleep and take a nap, or sleep longer the next night, that can benefit you. But if you have a week's worth of getting too little sleep, the weekend isn't sufficient for you to catch up. That's not a healthy behavior.

Doctors and scientists have found that various changes occur in one's system with time without enough sleep, which can put anyone, including caregivers and older adults, at risk for insomnia. 

Lack of Magnesium?

Older caregivers face their own health issues, which can become more pronounced with the pressures of caregiving and lack of sleep.

Studies show that these age-related changes can affect circadian rhythms and lead to insufficient absorption and retention of certain minerals, such as magnesium which plays a vital role in sleep regulation.

What is Magnesium? Why Use it for Sleep?

Magnesium is a macro-mineral that makes up approximately 99% of the body's mineral content. Besides contributing to the healthy maintenance of the bones, it also plays a crucial role in nerve function. It was in 1980 that research first lent evidence to the fact that magnesium has muscle relaxant properties and is, in fact, an essential mineral that helps regulate sleep. This discovery was also ascertained later when a study was published in 2013 in the Zahedan Journal of Research in Medical Sciences.

This mineral can be found in foods like spinach, chard, black beans, figs, avocado, and almonds, to name a few. Once it enters the body, it helps calcium attach to bones. However, to do that, it has to remove some of the calcium from the muscles, which in turn leads to their relaxation. 

Furthermore, a glass of warm milk is also known to trigger a yawn or two. This is due to the high magnesium levels in milk, which have a calming effect on one's body. 

Balance Your Diet to Sleep Better

New data indicates that approximately 20% of the population suffers from magnesium deficiency. Interestingly, according to various nutrition-based research, the reason is that various foods and drinks, like coffee, actually decrease the amount of magnesium in the system. To mitigate the situation, the best solution is to incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your diet. 

Picky eaters, fortunately, can choose from a variety of fruits, nuts, and vegetables to compensate for magnesium needs.

Doctors suggest that a daily magnesium intake should not exceed 400-420 mg for men and 310-320 mg for women. It takes as little as 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup of figs, or other small amounts of magnesium found in other healthy foods.

Are there other supplements someone can use to help with sleep? Supplements like cannabidiol (CBD), melatonin, valerian, and chamomile promise better sleep. However, Harvard Medical School says there is little evidence that they are effective. Experts say that making behavioral changes is a better way to get more rest.

Seniors Have Sleep Issues - Placing Bigger Pressure on Caregivers

Lack of sleep is a problem for caregivers, but it is also a common problem for the care recipient. The Sleep Foundation says that aging is associated with several health issues, including sleep problems. In actuality, inadequate sleep can exacerbate many of these issues and lower a person's quality of life after age 65.

If the care recipient has sleep problems, the pressure on caregivers will become even more significant. The fact that many older adults have many health conditions complicates the connection between physical health and sleep. 

According to the 2003 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll, which examined 11 common health issues, 24% of persons aged 65 to 84 reported having four or more different medical conditions. 

Those who reported getting less than six hours of sleep, having poor sleep quality, and displaying indications of a sleep disorder were more likely to have multiple health issues. For caregivers, this lack of sleep will make their job much harder - leading to their own health and sleep issues.

Medications can also cause sleep disorders, affecting the care recipient and their caregivers. Almost 40% of adults over 65 take five or more medications. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs can contribute to sleep issues as well.

You can do numerous things to help you get a good night's sleep. The NIA has several suggestions to benefit everyone, including older adults - A Good Night's Sleep | National Institute on Aging.

Caregiving is Hard - Planning is Easy

Most of us understand the consequences of changing health and aging. However, what is lesser known are the consequences placed on untrained and unprepared family caregivers. Lack of sleep and growing health problems affect caregivers. Some family caregivers are older themselves and face their own growing health problems. 

Being prepared for the costs and burdens of aging should be part of your retirement plan before the need arises. Professional long-term health care is expensive, and putting the burden and stress of caregiving on loved ones has major pitfalls.

For many Americans, Long-Term Care Insurance has become part of the retirement plan. The guaranteed tax-free benefits provide access to quality care options. These benefits reduce the stress and anxiety on the family and provide a better quality of care. Plus, your 401(k) and other assets are protected.

Most people obtain coverage in their 50s. Several insurance companies offer these products, which are regulated by state and federal laws. A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can provide accurate quotes and professional recommendations so you don't lose sleep trying to plan.

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About the Author

Sally Phillips is a freelance writer with many years’ experience across many different areas. She enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.

LTC News Contributor Sally Phillips

Sally Phillips

Contributor since November 4th, 2017

Editor's Note

Longevity has become a major planning issue. With advances in medical science combined with more people being proactive with health and lifestyle, more people are living longer and longer.

Aging happens, and the consequences can dramatically change a caregiver's everyday life. Now, do you want to place this responsibility on your children decades from now? Most every survey suggests most people do not want to be a burden on their family. However, have you done anything to avoid that from happening?

You deserve quality care, and your family deserves the time to be family instead of becoming your future caregiver. The solution is affordable Long-Term Care Insurance.

You might think it is too expensive. The truth is most people find it very affordable, but most insurance agents and financial advisors are not skilled at finding and designing appropriate coverage. Premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies, and policies are custom designed.

In many ways, LTC Insurance is 401(k) insurance, but it is much more than that. Long-Term Care Insurance shields your loved ones and finances against the expenses and hassles of aging and failing health. Your loved ones can remain family and not become caregivers.

Most people obtain coverage in their 50s when premiums are much lower, and their health gives them more options. An LTC Insurance specialist will work with all the top companies and understands underwriting, policy design, and claims - Work With a Specialist.

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