Losing someone you love can wreak havoc in every area of your life including your sleep patterns. Many people find themselves lying awake in bed, night after night. They desperately want to get some solid sleep but counting sheep isn’t helping them to slip into unconsciousness. You can only function for so long without sleep before it begins to affect your personal and professional life.
If you are having a hard time sleeping after losing a loved one, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Here are a few tips for restoring your sleep so you can get back to a normal life:
Follow a Regular Sleep Schedule
After a loved one dies, many people find that their entire routine is thrown off course. They stay up too late at night and sleep in far too often. The most important thing you can do to restore your sleep after losing someone is to follow a regular sleep schedule. A sleep schedule helps your body physically adjust to sleeping during set hours. This means that you head to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time. It is even preferred if you follow a routine seven days a week instead of sleeping in for a couple hours on your days off.
Create a Bedtime Routine
The idea of a bedtime routine might sound childish, but it is important for everyone. You should have a certain routine that you follow each night that cues your body to the fact that it is almost time for sleep. You might journal before turning out the light, grab a quick shower, or read a chapter from your favorite book. The bedtime routine you choose can be as unique as you are. After following it for a while, your body will learn to associate these activities with sleep, and you will fall asleep much faster.
Pay Attention to Children
Children are particularly susceptible to disrupted sleep cycles in the aftermath of a lost loved one. They may feel overwhelmed by confusing feelings like sadness and worry. Depending on the situation, they may even have a hard time sleeping due to recurring nightmares. The best thing you can do to help children cope with grief is to give them extra attention during this hard transition.
This may mean that you give them more individual attention that can open the doors to communicate about what they are going through. You may also want to consult a professional therapist to help them work through their feelings surrounding this loss. No matter what you decide to do, know that young children will likely need extra support during this time, particularly if they have never encountered a loss before.
Exercise Regularly and Eat Well
Your body is not going to be ready to sleep if you have not adequately used it for the day. Regular exercise tires your muscles and sets you up for deep sleep each night. As an added bonus, exercise is also proven to boost your mood, and your sadness might be temporarily lightened in the aftermath of a good workout.
Along with exercise, you should consider the foods that you are putting into your body. Make sure that you are nourishing yourself with healthy foods even though you might be craving junk food. What you eat directly affects your mood, so make your best effort to eat healthily during this time.
Consider Different Forms of Bodywork
Grief often manifests itself in physical forms as aches and pains, headaches, or even manifesting in a clenched jaw. These psychosomatic symptoms can make it difficult for you to relax and unwind at the end of the night. Having someone work on healing the physical side of your grief using bodywork, like massage, can help you restore some of your normal sleep patterns.
Along with massage, acupuncture can help with grief. Some research studies have already shown that acupuncture can be effective for dealing with depression. While grief may not turn into a full depressive episode, there is a possibility that this type of bodywork can offer some relief from your symptoms.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Coping with your grief might feel uncomfortable and even impossible at times. Many people try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in order to fall asleep each night. Unfortunately, this may not have the desired effect. Drugs and alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but they have been proven to actually disrupt your sleep patterns so that you do not wake up feeling refreshed. Not to mention, you might run the risk of developing an addiction or dependency on these chemicals to help you cope with your feelings.
Instead of self-medicating, you might want to talk to your doctor about temporarily using a sleep aid or natural supplements like melatonin. These can be important tools to help you temporarily, but remember that some of the behavioral strategies listed above will be more effective in the long run.Back to Knowledge Center