Grief is a complicated emotion, and it’s one that is different for everyone. There are all sorts of thoughts and emotions, but it is completely normal. However, one of the many symptoms associated with grief is sleeplessness, and this can make moving forward difficult when you are running on empty. The following tips are just a few ways to help you get the sleep your body needs while navigating life after the loss of a loved one.
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Watch What You Eat and Drink
Everyone has various ways of coping, but turning to alcohol or caffeine to wind down at night could be wreaking havoc on your sleep schedule. Caffeine keeps you up and may even leave you feeling jittery. A glass of wine might seem like a good way to relax, and it can, in fact, make you feel sleepy, but it disrupts your natural sleep-wake cycle and puts you at risk for developing an addiction. Beverages aren’t the only thing keeping you at night. It’s okay to eat a snack an hour or two before bedtime, but be choosy, as some foods affect sleep. For example, chocolate and ice cream both contain sugar, which leads to fewer hours of deep sleep and more wake-ups. Even late-night classics like pizza can cause heartburn and a sleepless night.
Develop a Routine
Are your sleep and wake times sporadic and irregular? If so, your body may be confused. This is where having a bedtime can be beneficial.
According to Nuvanna, “Your body’s circadian rhythm (our inner clock that tells us when it’s time to sleep) will get used to your routine and expect it.”
So, try to stick to your bedtime on the weekends and during the week, even when you really want to stay up and watch that movie. Include relaxing tasks in your bedtime routine such as taking a bath, reading, or journaling. You might even try incorporating technology such as sleep trackers, sleep machines, or air purifiers. If you are still restless, the culprit could be your mattress. Depending on your sleep position, you need varying levels of support. For example, side sleepers can benefit from memory foam that contours to the body, whereas a back sleeper might need extra support via an innerspring to keep that natural lumbar curve.
Take Care of Yourself
Grieving takes a toll on you both mentally and physically, which is why it is important that you focus on self-care to relieve built-up stress. It can be hard to quiet your mind at night and truly relax when all the days’ ups and downs follow you to bed. Incorporate activities into your daily routines that you enjoy, such as gardening, knitting, or yoga. A great way to nurture your body and bolster the grieving process is with exercise. When you exercise, your focus is on the task at hand and you are in complete control, which is a feeling that might be lacking when you are in the throes of grief. Not only that, but exercise causes your brain to release feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which give you a sense of calm.
Switch Up Your Bedroom
There is nothing wrong with displaying memories of your loved ones, but at a time when the grief is so fresh, having photos in your bedroom could act as a trigger. If the loved one you lost was a spouse, seeing their clothes hanging in the closet or their unfinished book on their bedside table can be unsettling. You don’t have to remove memories permanently, but temporarily reframing your bedroom could be helpful. You might even consider switching up the décor, painting the walls a relaxing color, or decluttering.
When you are grieving the loss of a loved one, your grief manifests itself in many ways. For some, this can mean trouble sleeping. To combat those sleepless nights, watch what you eat and drink before bed, develop a sleep routine, take care of yourself, and consider making changes to the bedroom. Once you are sleeping soundly each night, you can focus on taking things one day at a time.