Grief and sleep deprivation go hand in hand. It's natural to experience an upheaval to your body's natural rhythm when you go through something traumatic. But when lack of sleep makes it harder to cope with your emotions and move on from your loss, it's time to do something. Sleep provides your body with a chance to heal, providing rejuvenating benefits to both your physical and mental health. Give these ideas a try so you can get the restorative rest you need.
Make Your Bedroom More Comfortable
Your bedroom should be a relaxing place where you feel comfortable and at peace. If you've lost a spouse, your bedroom can feel empty and trigger feelings of loneliness. Try redoing the room, making sure it's cool, dark and quiet by taking advantage of blackout curtains and white noise machines. Remove your spouse’s things from the room if they make you feel sad. Instead, surround yourself with objects and pictures that bring you inner peace. Importantly, invest in a good mattress and quality bedding if yours is uncomfortable.
Keep a Journal on Your Bedside Table
As you probably know, a racing mind prevents sleep like nothing else. Regrets, deadlines and distressing thoughts are hard to quiet. Curlaser.com recommends keeping a notebook next to your bed so you can get your thoughts out of your head. Make ordered lists of things you need to do or write about the emotions that are troubling you. You may find that writing out your thoughts makes them easier to organize and dismiss from your mind. At the same time, jotting down your regrets, worries and other negative emotions in a thought record can help you reframe negative thoughts more positively.
Watch Out for Gimmicky Sleep Gadgets
Many sleep gadgets can help you fall asleep and wake up feeling more refreshed such as noise machines, gentle alarm clocks and smart beds with temperature controls. Wearable sleep trackers can even help you pinpoint health issues such as sleep apnea, which may be interfering with your sleep quality. However, many sleep aid devices on the market lack the scientific evidence to back up their efficacy. For example, the data provided by at-home sleep trackers can be misleading because wearable devices are not nearly as sophisticated and accurate as those in sleep labs.
Follow a Regular Sleeping Pattern
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help you get in sync with your body's natural inner clock. Try following a relaxing bedtime ritual to help your mind wind down and prepare your body for sleep. Nuvanna recommends keeping all electronics out of your bedroom and avoiding screens at least 30 minutes before bed. Heavy, fatty foods can also disrupt your sleep because they overwork your digestive system. If you need an evening snack, try eating some fresh fruit, granola or yogurt instead.
Try to Get Some Exercise
If you’re grieving, you may not feel up to exercise. But, it is a key aspect of self-care and has a huge impact on your ability to get quality sleep at night. Try to nurture yourself by finding an exercise that makes you feel good, such as taking a quiet walk through the forest or getting together with friends for a spin class. Cardio activities including running, hiking, cycling and swimming are some of the best healthy outlets to support restful sleep. Just make sure you don't exercise too close to bedtime since this can actually energize you!
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Many people rely on cups of coffee to keep them awake during the day. But, did you know that any caffeine you consume in the afternoon can affect your sleep? Even caffeinated beverages including tea, soda and chocolate can prevent you from feeling sleepy in the evenings. And, although drinking alcohol right before bed may help you fall asleep, it interferes with your body's natural clock and disrupts the rejuvenating quality of sleep.
Because grief takes such a heavy toll on our lives, it can feel unnatural to engage in normal activities like eating and sleeping. You might even feel like you're learning how to sleep again. Following good sleep habits in the evenings and engaging in sleep-boosting behaviors during the day will help you care for yourself during this difficult time.
By Sara Bailey
After losing her husband Greg, Sara Bailey created TheWidow to support her fellow widows and widowers. She is also the author of the upcoming book Hope and Help After Loss: A Guide For Newly Widowed Parents