One of the challenges of losing a loved one is the inability to sleep during bereavement. Losing someone is stressful, and it’s normal to miss them and feel lonely without them by your side. Nobody wants to be kept up all night with these thoughts. It’s painful to be awake, and all you want to do is shut off your brain for a few hours. If you find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, try these six practices.
- Whatever is causing you stress can wait another day. Life moves fast, and we tend to not slow down until we hit the pillow. As the world around us gets quiet, we’re kept awake by anxiety and stressful thoughts. While dealing with grief, negative feelings come up—guilt, regret, anger, depression, sadness, and family drama. There’s also the pressure of paperwork, funeral decisions, insurance, legal matters, and medical bills. For the people who go back to work during bereavement, the stress could be work-related. It doesn’t help to think about stressful matters right before bed. Compartmentalize the stress by leaving it in the other room and dealing with it tomorrow.
- Sleep whenever you feel tired. During this time, you don’t need to sleep when everyone else is asleep. Bereavement means not being accountable to your regular schedule. If you’re feeling tired at 4 pm, rest your head. A restorative afternoon nap might be the best medicine. The only time you need to be on a schedule is for daytime meetings or work, but time is irrelevant otherwise. Eventually, you’ll feel tired from staying up too much, and your body will need to crash.
- Alcohol and your phone might help distract you, but they don’t help you rest. Some people turn to alcohol to forget their sorrows and fall asleep faster, but it actually contributes to depression and interferes with sleep quality. Waking up in the morning with a headache won’t make you feel any better. Your phone might provide ample distraction with social media and online entertainment, but the stimulation and light from the screen before bedtime keeps you awake longer. If you are having a particularly tough time putting your phone down, you might consider buying a screen protector for your phone designed to filter out the blue light.
- Exercise and eat well so your body can rest at night. Exercising in the AM keeps your body on rhythm and helps tire it out by nighttime. A high-impact workout in the morning will help you sleep better at night, as well as raise your endorphins which can put you in a better mood. A healthy diet can also keep your body on the right track so it rests better at night, but be sure to avoid certain foods like caffeine, protein, junk food, and dairy.
- A bedroom upgrade might be in order. Redoing your bedroom could make it feel like a new place for this new phase in your life, especially if you’ve lost a spouse. Decluttering, furniture rearrangement and new décor could make a difference in how the room feels. A new bed might also help you achieve some closure and sleep better as you heal from losing your partner. Consider ordering a bed in a box for home delivery. It’s easier to move into the room than a traditional mattress because of its maneuverability around tight corners and through halls.
- Gadgets can help. There are smart alarms to wake you up, smart mattresses to help you get better rest, sleep devices for babies, and sound machines to provide calming noises. Sleep trackers have also become popular gadgets, but they could be more of a reminder of your bad sleep habits than a helpful tool. Check out this list of gadgets. However, before making a purchase, be sure to research whether they are innovations worth trying or gimmicks to avoid.
Grief over the loss of a loved one is already a painful experience. Sleep deprivation shouldn’t have to come with it. With the many things you can do to establish a healthy sleep pattern, you can bring a good night’s sleep back into your life. Your heart has been through enough. It deserves a break at night.
By: Sara Bailey, thewidow.net