The loss of a loved one can drastically affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Whether it interferes with your ability to get good quality sleep, stay asleep, or even fall asleep at all, it is true that the loss of a loved one can turn even the most rigidly-scheduled people into temporary insomniacs for months at a time. However, in order for you to grieve properly and begin to heal, it is important that you provide your mind and body with the necessary amount of sleep. Here are some techniques you can use to help yourself fall asleep more quickly in spite of your grief.
The effects of the loss of a spouse
Losing a spouse is a dreadful blow and can cause significant health effects. Whether you were together for decades or months, it can negatively affect your mental wellness, physical abilities, and even things as seemingly unconnected as your productivity at work. Our bodies require a certain amount of balance in order to function properly. The loss of a loved one disrupts that balance, sending all of our regular habits and systems out of sync. Sleep is one of the major routines that can be disrupted by the loss of a loved one. Some people may find themselves sleeping hours more than usual; others may not be able to get to sleep at all; and some may find that the sleep they do manage to get is restless and ineffectual.
If you have lost your sense of balance, you may be able to find significant benefits in an online bereavement program. Online support groups can help you deal with your emotions in a healthy way, twenty-four hours a day. While some people also find help through in-person support groups, online programs are always available, with resources and information to help you calm your mind to be able to sleep through the night.
Change your habits
You can increase your odds of being able to successfully fall asleep by refraining from several pre-bedtime habits. Drinking caffeinated drinks any later than noon can affect your ability to sleep. Try to avoid foods with trace amounts of caffeine as well, like chocolate. While alcohol may make you feel sleepier, it actually impairs your quality of sleep, so avoid it before hitting the hay. Keep your stomach happy at night by staying away from citrus fruits and large, fatty, and sugary dishes before bed. Keep electronic devices out of your bedroom an hour or two before bed to avoid the negative effects of the blue light they emit. Finally, your mattress may be adversely affecting your ability to sleep if it isn’t the right type for your sleeping style, and note that people in different stages of life should use different types of mattress to get the best possible sleep.
Establish a regular sleep pattern
In order to get better sleep, you need to establish a regular pattern for it. The body is much more likely to fall asleep at a healthy time if its biological clock is properly set. This can be tricky, but you can make it easier by setting a daily sleep schedule detailing when you need to begin preparing to get into bed, when you should start trying to fall asleep, and when you should wake up in the morning. This sense of regularity can help you begin to re-establish the balance you lack. You can make it easier to fall asleep at your scheduled time by exercising earlier in the day. In addition to the many physical benefits exercise provides, it increases your body’s need for rest at night.
After losing a loved one, it can be difficult to get the rest you need. However, a regular schedule and better bedtime habits can help you fall asleep and wake up feeling rested.
This post was contributed to Memoleaves by Sara Bailey, who, after losing her husband Greg, created TheWidow.net 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.