Sleep Q & A: Answering caregiver questions about insomnia

Sleep: The Caregiver's Elusive Friend

Sleep sometimes falls by the wayside for caregivers due to demands on your time and the emotional strains of your day-to-day responsibilities. Feelings of anger, sadness, depression, and anxiety can also disrupt your sleep. And, the more trouble you have sleeping, the more frustrated you may feel, creating an endless cycle of sleep deprivation.

Q. Do I need 8 hours of sleep per night?

A. Many people do just fine with 6 ½ or 7 hours of sleep a night. Others need a little more than 8 hours per night. The right amount of sleep is the amount that lets you function the next day.

Q. Is it normal to wake up in the night?

A. Yes, waking up in the night is relatively common. It tends to occur more frequently as we age. It’s part of our biological evolution and doesn’t mean you have a sleep health problem.

Q. How do I know if I have insomnia?

A. If it takes you a long time to fall asleep, if you wake up in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, and/or if you wake up too early and can’t go back to sleep, then you are experiencing insomnia. 

Q. What causes insomnia?

A. There can be many reasons why you have difficulty sleeping. For caregivers, sleep sometimes falls by the wayside due to the demands on your time and the emotional rollercoaster that can come with being a caregiver.

Q. Should I be worried about having insomnia?

A. A few nights of not being able to sleep well happens to most of us from time to time. However, prolonged lack of sleep can affect your physical and mental wellbeing. Additionally, as a caregiver, your lack of good quality sleep could negatively impact your care recipient. Research shows that when caregivers take better care of themselves, their care recipients benefit as well.

Q. Can insomnia be treated?

A. Yes. There are a variety of techniques and therapies you can try. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBTi) is recommended as the first-line treatment of insomnia. It focuses on breaking habits and patterns that interfere with sleep and replacing them with new approaches that naturally bring on sleep. To learn more about CBTi and to access helpful tools, visit

Q. What are some sleep therapy techniques I can try on my own?
. Prepare for sleep by relaxing. Try reading a boring book, stretching, meditating, or practice mindful breathing. Some people find white noise helps to shut out their racing thoughts. There is a variety of relaxing YouTube videos of things like rainfalls and waves.

Watch the webinar for more tips on sleep for caregivers


The above content was sourced, in part, from an Ontario Caregiver Organization webinar presented by Dr. David Gardner, a Pharmacist and Professor with the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Additional content was sourced from Sleepwell, led by Dr. Gardner and his colleague, Andrea Murphy. To learn more, visit

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