Losing Sleep After a Loss? Here's How to Get It Back
Losing a loved one can turn your life upside down. Among the emotional overload and the stress of posthumous practicalities, it can be very easy to let the smaller things slide. One of these things is sleep. Loss of sleep while grieving can be a result of your routine being disturbed, but it can also simply be a case of those overwhelming thoughts and feelings keeping you awake. However, the problem is that sleep isn’t a “small thing.” It is the mechanism through which your body and mind recover and regenerate, and it is essential to your mental well-being. Because of this, it is crucial that you take the steps to bring restful sleep back into your life.
Build a Regular Routine
While the cause of your insomnia may be the loss of a loved one, this doesn’t change the fact that everyone’s drive to sleep is regulated by their circadian rhythm. This internal body clock works best when it is regular, which means going to sleep at the same time every night (and rising at the same time every morning) should be your first step.
However, there are other ways to build a regular sleeping pattern. Perhaps the most effective one is exercise. Research has shown that lack of exercise has a direct effect on our ability to fall asleep, while a regular exercise routine can have massively beneficial results.
There are also certain behaviors you should avoid in the hours before your chosen bedtime. Specifically, you should stay away from electronics, which emit a blue light that confuses our bodies by letting them think it’s still daytime. Steer clear of foods like chocolate as well as, obviously, caffeine - both stimulants!
Change Your Sleep Environment
One of the reasons you may be struggling to fall asleep is that your bedroom reminds you of the person you have lost. Small changes to your sleep environment can get rid of some of that association without sacrificing the memories you have of your shared space.
You could, for instance, paint your walls a new color. This gives the room an entirely different feel, and is an opportunity to go for a soothing shade that will encourage sleep; earth tones are well suited to bedrooms, while bright colors are too stimulating and should be avoided. Another area you can focus on is your mattress. Changing your mattress can make the bed feel entirely different, but it can also simply make you feel more comfortable. This guide by Restonic is very useful for helping you pick out the best mattress for your needs.
There are also several gadgets available to help you sleep. While many products on the market are a bit gimmicky and won’t help much, those that focus on making your environment more soothing and pleasant through light and sound are usually a good investment.
Calm Your Body and Mind
Telling someone to be calmer after a loss is, of course, painfully condescending. You may not always feel calm, and that’s okay. However, there are certain things you can do to wind down the mind and body to let them know that it is time for rest.
Incorporate soothing rituals into your bedtime routine, such as a cup of hot herbal tea, a few stretches, or a warm bubble bath. When you get in bed, a guided sleep meditation can empty your mind and seamlessly lead you into slumber.
The point of all of these techniques is not to get rid of the negative emotions that are keeping you up, but to signal that it is time to set them aside for the night. This can even be literal. A good thing to do is to write down these emotions as well as any practical concerns. This lets you leave them on your bedside table rather than in your head. You can come back to them in the morning if need be — now is time for rest.
Written by: Jason Lewis, he started StrongWell.org to share his learnings from his experiences in taking care of his mother and in his profession as a personal trainer. He enjoys creating fitness programs that cater to the needs of people over 65.