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IT’S NOT JET LAG: Dealing with Lack of Sleep

Image of a tired paramedic

By Holly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN

We are closing in on the fourth week of daylight savings time. This seemingly small change in sleep patterns is brushed off by most, but there are others who dread the biannual time change. [Check out how day light savings time can impact us here.] 

By now most people feel like they are starting to normalize, but there are others who feel like they will never adjust. A change in time always disrupts our sleep pattern, otherwise known as our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm determines the quality of our sleep and how much uninterrupted sleep we get. When our circadian rhythm is disrupted, every aspect of our life is affected.

All of us have life stressors and responsibilities that disrupt our normal life on occasion. However, not all stressors and responsibilities, like caring for an older adult can afford the adverse effects of sleep deprivation that results from a time change.


How does lack of sleep affect you? Some of the adverse effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Loss of stamina
  • Persistent fatigue

There is never a time when sleep deprivation allows anyone to be on their “A” game. In fact as a caregiver the type of care you provide is directly affected by the loss of emotional resilience, persistent fatigue, and a decrease in physical stamina that occurs with sleep deprivation. It is important to note that a loss of emotional resilience and persistent fatigue are risk factors for abuse towards the people we care for.


The effects of daylight savings can be managed by adopting anyone of the following strategies:

  • Begin to move your bedtime up by 5 or 10 minutes every couple of days 2 weeks before the official change.
  • Adhere to a set bedtime.
  • Increase light in work spaces and in the home from midafternoon through the evening.
  • Engage in moderate exercise for 20-30 minutes each day.
  • Unplug from blue light electronics like phones, computers, and LED TV’s 1 hour prior to your desired sleep time.
  • Turndown your bedroom temperature a couple of degrees.


The people you care for depend on you to be your best every day. Seemingly small changes like daylight savings can affect how you provide care. Burnout, frustration, irritability, and other negative emotions occur because caregivers have a habit of not prioritizing themselves. Strategies for minimizing the effects of daylight savings are important but you must consistently make time to care for yourself. Here are a few ideas.

  • Practice self-compassion.
  • Engage in your favorite hobby.
  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Talk to a friend.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Give yourself permission to take a break.
  • Ask for help.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Practice being present.

We cannot give to others what we don’t have. It is important to be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy so that we can fully support the people we care for. Minimizing sleep deprivation by taking measures to minimize the effects of daylight savings and making sure we maintain a regular schedule of self-care will guarantee a happy and healthy future for all.

Holly Carlson MS, RN, CCRN is a freelance writer and owner of HDC Consulting.  Holly is a registered nurse with 25 years of healthcare experience in both acute and post-acute healthcare environments. Her experience includes direct care, organizational leadership, facility management, and organization culture development.

Phone: (541)419-4036