As we adjust to new routines and the days grow shorter, it’s a good time to talk about getting more sleep. I know for caregivers this isn’t an easy, three-step process. There are factors out of our control that determine how much sleep we get most nights. But that’s why it’s even more important to sleep when we can and evaluate and eliminate anything we need to so we can rest better. Today I’ll share how we’re getting more sleep, including the process my husband Lee went through to get diagnosed with sleep apnea and the small decisions I make throughout the day to set me up for better sleep at night.

In this episode you’ll also hear more about my new book, Everyday Prayers for the Special-Needs Mom, and join me in celebrating our 10,000th download!

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Episode 40 Sept. 14th How We’re Getting More Sleep

Hi friends, this is Self-Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver, and I’m your host Sandra Peoples. To us, self-care isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. We need to take better care of ourselves so we can care for those God has entrusted to us, whether that’s a child with special needs, a spouse with declining health, or in our caregiving profession. Our goal is to be abiding caregivers who remember John 15:5, that apart from Christ we can do nothing, but as we abide in Him, He accomplishes His purpose through us.

This is episode 40, and we’re talking about getting more sleep. And I know for caregivers this isn’t an easy three step process. There are factors out of our control that determine how much sleep we get most nights. My son James, who has autism, can get way off in his sleep routine, staying up until midnight playing or getting up at 3:00 am and being ready for the day. And for his safety, he can’t be the only one awake. But since he’s hit puberty, he has been sleeping more most nights. So our sleep routine is more up to us than it has been since before we had kids. Today I’ll share how we’re getting more sleep, including the process Lee went through to get diagnosed with sleep apnea and the small decisions I make throughout the day to set me up for better sleep at night.

Before we jump into that, I want to share some exciting news! I had a new book release last week! In partnership with Million Praying Moms, I have written Everyday Prayers for the Special-Needs Mom. In Everyday Prayers for the Special-Needs Mom, you’ll spend twenty days in prayer with a mom who gets it. I have been where you are and have found strength for each day and hope for the future. If you need encouragement on this unexpected journey, join me as I share Scriptures that have a message especially for moms like us, guides you through a prayer based on each passage, and encourages reflection through helpful questions. No matter what age your children are or what diagnosis they have, the truth of Scripture can speak to your situation. Spend twenty days in prayer through the prompts in this book and see what God will do in your heart! I’ll have a link in the show notes so you can learn more!

Now back to our topic for today!

I’m going to tell you all the things we did in order to sleep better at night. You may not need to do everything we did. Some of what we did may not be in your budget right now. Some may not be medically necessary. But hopefully it will get you thinking about what you could do to get more sleep. And one tip actually saves you money. Well, the money it takes to buy a Dr Pepper, but still. That could add up!

So here’s a quick list of five things we did in order to get more sleep: we bought a king sized bed, Lee got a sleep study done and now uses a cpap machine, I got a weighted blanket, I stopped drinking caffeine totally, and I’m more careful about what books I read at bedtime. Let’s talk more about each one!

First, the king-sized bed. I don’t know why this was such a hard decision for us to make, but it was! My parents always said they didn’t want a king-sized bed because they would get used to it and then not sleep well when they traveled. That made sense to me. Until they did buy a king-sized bed! And when I realized Lee and I don’t travel that often together, and when we do, we usually have to split up so one of us can sleep with James. So did it make sense for us to stay in a smaller bed 360 nights a year just so we’re more comfortable for the 5 when we might be away from home? Nope!

If it’s been a while since you have shopped for a bed, like it was for us, I have good news. Mattresses are cheaper than they used to be! Lee and I decided a new bed with be a combo gift that covered Christmas and our birthdays, but when I actually shopped for it, we came in under budget! I’ll link to what we bought in the shownotes since we got it from Amazon. (link to king mattress) It has made a big difference in how well we sleep. I was always afraid to get up at night because I knew it would wake up Lee, and it can be hard for him to fall back asleep. But now I can move around and even get up and he doesn’t stir. It’s also pretty nice because when James wakes up, he comes straight to our room. Since he’s now taller than I am, it was getting pretty crowded in the bed! So James is a big fan of the new bed. And our older son David was happy about it because he got our old queen. He sleeps with the dog, and they were for sure running out of room in the twin bed. If you’ve been thinking about getting a king-sized bed and wondered if it would make a big difference, I’m telling you it does!

Second, Lee got a sleep study done and now sleeps with a cpap machine. I know this doesn’t sound fun for most people, especially men. But Lee’s exhaustion level was really affecting his daily life. He wasn’t sleeping well at night, so he was falling asleep during the day. Not just an occasional power nap. He would fall asleep multiple times a day—anytime he got still. I also knew he wasn’t breathing well at night. I could hear him stop and then would wait for him to start up again. It was easy to tell since he snored. He talked to his doctor and they agreed it was worth getting a sleep study done to see how bad it was.

Covid actually turned out to be a good time to get a sleep study. He had to take a Covid test, but then could pick up the machine and do the sleep test at home instead of having to go to a clinic. They said he had mild sleep apnea and recommended a cpap. We have a good friend who sleeps with one, so he gave Lee a good peptalk about how much better he feels after he adjusted to sleeping with his. And it really didn’t take Lee long to adjust to it! The one he has is less bulky than others we’ve heard of. He doesn’t get tangled in it. He has stopped snoring, which was surprising hard for me to adjust to! But I’m enjoying the quiet now that I’m used to it. If you think you or your husband could benefit from a sleep study and a cpap, know that it’s totally worth talking to a doctor and finding out. Lee’s health has improved in other areas too now that he’s sleeping better!

My next suggestion might be familiar to some special-needs parents! It’s a weighted blanket! We got James one years ago to help with his sleep. But I had seen it more recently for adults to help us relax as well. Sometimes my anxiety spikes at night, and it can be hard to fall asleep because I’m analyzing interactions I had that day or even interactions I had with people 20 years ago! It is hard for me to turn off my mind and relax my body. I thought it was worth checking out for me! And it does really help. Just that little bit of weight reminds me to relax my muscles and feel more comfortable.

There are weight recommendations when you use a weighted blanket. It should be 10% of your body weight. I got mine from Amazon, and I’ll link to it in the shownotes (link to weighted blanket), but they are sold lots of places now that they are so popular. I can get really hot with mine, but that’s because I live outside of Houston where it’s always hot and because I am starting to get those darn hot flashes. I usually fall asleep with it on and then kick it off when I get hot.

Even with the weighted blanket, I was having trouble sleeping lately. Even when James was falling asleep between 9-10, I was still awake. So I had to look at what else might be causing me not to sleep well. The first reason was caffeine. I just don’t handle it well. I usually have a rule that I don’t drink it after lunch. And I had cut back to just one or two a week, but I realized the days I was drinking it was leading to late nights. So I’ve eliminated my Dr Peppers at least for now. You may not have the same sensitivity that I do to caffeine, but you may struggle with heartburn or too much sugar keeping you awake. If you’re struggling, take a look at what you’re eating and drinking to see if you can make a small change that leads to a big difference!

The last step I’ve made was a tough one. Of all the changes, even the hot flashes, this one makes me realize I’m not as young as I used to be. I can’t stay up late to read books anymore. I don’t bounce back from those late nights like I used to be able to. But during this Covid season, sometimes late at night was the only time I could read without being interrupted. At 10:00 when I usually turn off my Kindle, I would think about what was coming the next day. And I knew it would be full, with no time to read. But it just wasn’t worth how I felt the next day. A couple days I even thought I was getting sick because I felt so off! So I’m not reading books as quickly anymore as I usually do, but I’m sleeping more. And that’s more important during this season. You may not be tempted to read late at night. You may be tempted to binge watch shows. Or scroll through social media. Or get a crafting project done. And none of these are bad! But if like me it’s keeping you from sleeping well, and therefore affecting your ability to get through the next day, you may want to make some adjustments.

Those are the five changes we’ve made to get more sleep—the big changes and the small changes! Getting better sleep when we can sure helps me be a more patient mom on the nights/mornings that James doesn’t sleep well and keeps me up. Like when there’s a full moon! Anyone else google “is there a full moon coming?” when your kid seems off? I already googled it for Oct. and we have two coming, on the 1st and the 31st! So I’m making sure in the weeks leading up to those full moons that I’m making decisions that help me get better sleep. Especially as it gets darker soon and we get closer to the time change. Oh, I just googled that too. It’s Nov. 1st! The day after a full moon! Friends, we have to make good sleep decisions. Who knows what 2020 will bring with that perfect storm of sleep challenges!

For this episode’s ending prayer, I’d like to share words that might also help you sleep better. Let me quote from the beautiful book of liturgy, Every Moment Holy. It’s a prayer for those who cannot sleep. Join me in reflecting on these lines from that prayer:

O Christ Who Is My Rest, this tension of body, and racing of mind, and clamoring of heart afford me no peace this night. Even in haggard sleeplessness, I would yet recognize my utter dependence on you, remembering that you are with me whether I sleep or not. I do pray that sleep will come. I pray that a blessed calm with descend. I pray that peace will rest upon me now, that my brow will soon smooth in slumber. Waking or sleeping, O Lord, be this might my rest and on the morrow, my strength. Amen.  

As we end, I want to say a huge thank you. Yesterday We hit 10,000 downloads for this podcast! I’m so glad you have found our time together useful and encouraging. I go through each day thinking about you and praying for God to help know what would be helpful to you. If you want to celebrate our 10,000th download with me, leaving a review or a 5-star rating is the perfect gift. It’s perfect because it’s a blessing to me, but it also helps other caregivers like us know that listening will be worth their time as well!

If everything goes according to plan this week, next Monday I’m excited to release my chat with Jolene Philo about her newest book on love languages for special-needs families! We’re going to focus in on how to love our husbands and typical children well when it feels like the family member who requires the most attention and time is getting the best of us and there’s not much left. Be sure to hit subscribe so you don’t miss next Monday’s episode!

Until then, friends, know that I’m praying for that God will pour out His love on you as you abide in Him, finding the strength you need to fulfill your calling as a caregiver.

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