Caregiver’s Sleep Deprivation Affects Health

family caregiver helping an aging loved one

Cara is exhausted. She is the primary caregiver for her mother with dementia who lives with her. While at work Cara has home care for her mom but the nights are difficult. Her mom wakes multiple times and starts to wander about the house. Cara hasn’t felt this tired since she had a newborn. At least with a baby there was an end in sight. Cara knows she needs to get some sleep soon as her own health is beginning to be affected.

Most Caregivers Lack Sleep

There are nearly 16 million caregivers in the US. The majority are unpaid family members for whom the care of the infirmed or elderly is the center point of their lives. Studies show that nearly 70 percent of these caregivers lack the appropriate amount of sleep. The average sleep period reported by caregivers is six hours per night. Of those hours, family caregivers of persons with dementia and memory loss are subject to frequent waking. This lack of restful sleep can easily increase caregiver stress and lead to burnout.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night to function at their best. The disruption of sleep, and the inability to experience the deep sleep necessary for the body to repair and regrow tissues, build bone and muscle and strengthen the immune system, has a negative effect on the physical and mental health of caregivers. Sleep deprivation affects judgment, reaction time, and impairs other mental functions. Effects also include a risk of “depression, weight gain, heart disease and premature death,” says lead author of Nine out of 10 People Caring for a Family Member with Dementia Don’t Get Enough Sleep, Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman, Endowed Professor in the UB School of Nursing.

Benefits of Sleep for the Family Caregiver

“During a full night of uninterrupted sleep, our brains have an opportunity to do some deep cleaning to remove neurotoxins, such as the waste products of something called beta-amyloid, which is found in people with Alzheimer’s diseases” notes Sleep Resolutions, a sleep disorder practice.

Sleep lowers stress and helps one learn new things more effectively. Some recent studies suggest the proper amount of sleep can help one live longer. Sleep curbs inflammation, lowers blood pressure and reduces risk of heart attack. A good night’s sleep can help in weight loss too. According to, “Researchers from the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat…., and those that were sleep deprived lost more muscle mass. Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.”

Respite Care for Caregivers

WebMD describes the phenomena called ‘Sleep Debt’. If a person is deprived of sleep the body will require that you make up for lost sleep time. To address sleep deprivation, when providing care, it is important for the caregiver to make time for themselves and to get periodic nighttime care support.

Respite programs are an important tool for caregiver health, helping to decrease caregiver stress and burnout. Many senior care facilities provide temporary residency opportunities for adults who require daily care, persons with dementia or those with other medical needs that enable caregivers to get the rest they need or even take a vacation.

Green Hill Senior Living in West Orange, NJ provides respite care services you can trust. When a break from caregiving is needed, you want someone who understands how to care for your loved one and who you can trust to provide the best respite care services.

Green Hill offers staycations and respite care that will enable you take a break secure in the knowledge that your loved one is cared for 24-hours a day, by professional caregivers, in a safe and comfortable environment. During a respite care stay at Green Hill, your loved one will receive the same level of care that full-time residents receive. Green Hill also provides long-term residential care options to support individuals caring for a loved one with dementia. To learn more call 973-766-9355 or email

This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.