What Is Overnight Care? Sleeping Nights vs Waking Nights

James Bowdler

25 May, 2023

2 min read

Overnight care supports your loved ones overnight to ensure their comfort, safety, and well-being. Professional overnight carers provide a range of services that can make the night-time hours less daunting for your loved ones.

This includes assistance in preparing for bed, helping them change into their nightwear and ensuring they are comfortably settled in for the night.

The carer’s role continues throughout the night, ensuring that all their needs are met, whether for a late-night snack, medication, or assistance to use the toilet. If they need to get up during the night, the carer ensures this is done safely to reduce the risk of falls. With overnight care, you can rest assured that your parents are in capable, caring hands.

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What Is Overnight Care?

An overnight carer is a skilled professional who stays with your loved one at night, providing safety, comfort, and timely support using pressure mats and call buttons. They can undertake waking nights (attending to the patient three or more times) or sleeping nights based on the individual’s needs.

The jobs usually fall into one of two categories:

1. Waking Night Care

Waking night care involves a carer who remains awake throughout the night to assist your loved one. They handle tasks like personal care in the evening and morning, toileting, repositioning for bed-bound patients, and administering medication. The carer is often positioned in the room or insight of the door. If your loved one requires frequent assistance, waking night care may be the best choice.

Overnight care is called ‘Waking Night Care’ if the carer needs to stay awake for most of the night. This is because the person they are looking after might need their help often and could be in danger if help isn’t quick to come. Usually, if the carer has to help the person four or more times in the night, then they should stay awake then you should consider getting a ‘Waking Night Carer.

2. Sleeping Night Care

On the other hand, a sleeping night carer sleeps through the night but is available for any necessary assistance. This type of care is suitable for those who require less frequent care during the night, but it’s essential to have someone there ‘just in case’ or to provide the patient with reassurance. The carer is usually in a separate bed in a different room with access to devices such as monitors, pressure mats and call buttons. This can also provide significant peace of mind for family members worried about their loved one being alone, having falls or other incidents.

Overnight care is called ‘Sleeping Night Care’ when the carer can sleep for most of the night. This is because the person they’re looking after might only need help once in a while, so it is safe for the carer to sleep. Usually, if the carer has to help the person one to three times in the night, then they can sleep. This type of care is suitable when someone just needs to know there’s help nearby, even if they don’t need it often. That’s when we call it ‘Sleeping Night Care’.

The Roles and Responsibilities of Overnight Carers

The overnight carer’s key responsibility is to ensure that your loved one is safe, comfortable, and well looked after throughout the night. But what does this look like in practice?

Getting the Patient Ready for Bed

This process includes personal care tasks such as washing, dressing, toileting, and preparing a hot or cold drink before bed. Assistance might also include helping your loved one move safely into their bed, ensuring they’re comfortable, and setting up any necessary medical equipment.

Dealing with Sundowning and Evening Anxiety

Sundowning, or increased agitation and confusion during the evening hours, is a common symptom in certain health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Overnight carers are trained to manage these situations with a gentle, patient, and understanding approach. They employ various techniques to soothe and comfort your loved one, helping them transition peacefully into the night. Their presence can significantly reduce the anxiety that some people feel at being alone when night falls.

Monitoring and Assisting Throughout the Night

This depends on whether the carer is waking or sleeping. In any case, the carer is there to provide support should your loved one need help during the night. This might involve helping them to the toilet, adjusting their position in bed, or giving reassurance during a moment of confusion or distress.

Facilitating Safe Night-Time Toilet Visits

As our loved ones age, the need for frequent bathroom visits during the night might increase, and it can pose a safety risk due to the dark, potential disorientation, and the chance of slips or falls. Overnight carers offer assistance by ensuring a safe path to the bathroom, providing physical support if needed, and ensuring hygiene practices are maintained.

Keeping Your Loved Ones Secure

One of an overnight carer’s critical responsibilities is to ensure your loved one’s safety and security, which extends beyond physical health. For individuals prone to wander due to confusion or disorientation, the carer acts as a reassuring presence that ensures they remain safely within the confines of their home. This peace of mind can be invaluable for the individual in care and the entire family.

Ensuring a Safe Environment

Throughout their shift, the overnight carer will ensure that the environment remains safe for your loved one. This can involve ensuring they don’t trip or fall if they get up at night and checking that doors are locked, and appliances are turned off. If you’re concerned about safety at home, our guide on reducing risk in the home is a valuable resource.

Commonly Asked Questions About Overnight Care

How Many Carers Should Be on a Night Shift?

The number of carers on a night shift can depend on the individual’s needs. Generally, one overnight carer is sufficient, but for individuals with more complex care needs, additional carers might be required. More complex needs might include the need to use a 2 person hoist or monitor and manage ventilation and suctioning of airways.

Can Overnight Caregivers Sleep?

Yes, overnight caregivers can sleep if they are providing “sleeping night care” where they sleep but are available if needed. However, for “waking night care”, the caregiver remains awake throughout the night to provide constant care and support.

Can You Get an Extra Bedroom for a Carer?

This depends on your individual circumstances and housing situation. If you’re considering overnight care, ensuring a suitable sleeping area for the carer is crucial. If you need sleeping night care (which tends to cost less), having a separate bedroom for the carer to use is essential.

How Much Do Overnight Carers Cost?

The cost of overnight care depends on a few factors. These include the type of care, the patient’s needs, and your location. Waking night care typically costs £14 to £20 per hour, and sleeping night care usually ranges from £12 to £15 per hour. For a 10 to 12-hour night, sleeping night care could cost £120 to £144, and waking night care might be £150 to £160. Always ensure you discuss the fee structure with your carer or agency to avoid any surprises later on.

We have a detailed and comprehensive guide available that addresses this exact question. Please refer to our “Night Time Carers Costs: A Comprehensive Guide” for more information.

How Can You Find Overnight Carers?

Finding overnight carers can be achieved in three ways: Classified ads, Care agencies, and Care platforms like PrimeCarers. Classified ads are often cheap and effective. However, they don’t provide checked carers or support. Care agencies solve this problem. They do all the work and send you a checked carer. The downside is high cost, varied service, and you may get different carers. Care Platforms like PrimeCarers provide a middle ground. They give access to checked carers and support at reasonable rates. With this option, you usually get the same carer each time.

We have a detailed guide on “How to Find the Best Carers ” for more information.

How Primecarers Can Help

At PrimeCarers, we understand how challenging it can be to juggle care for your parents while managing your own life. That’s why we’re dedicated to connecting you with professional, compassionate carers who can provide excellent overnight care.

Whether you’re considering a waking night carer or a sleeping night carer, we can help you find the perfect match. We offer private carers at very competitive prices, ensuring you get the quality care you need without breaking the bank.

Remember, finding the right carer is crucial. You can learn more about choosing your private carer on our website.

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James Bowdler


I founded and manage PrimeCarers, a Platform that connects Private Clients with Private Carers near them.

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