Grief takes a severe emotional toll that manifests physically in different ways. Some people fall into a kind of stunned disbelief; others have a manic response and search desperately for some outlet; still others experience guilt, anguishing over the fact that they could’ve done or said more before the end.
Disrupted sleep is one response that’s quite common among grieving people, a reaction caused by racing thoughts, anxiety, depression, nightmares or difficulty sleeping in the bed they shared with the departed. Some people require therapy while others are able to cope with their disturbed mental state. There are many strategies that often prove effective in helping grieving people overcome insomnia. Here are a few to consider:
Create a better sleep space
When you’re struggling to get to sleep, minor disturbances can cause problems, which is why it’s so important to create an environment that blocks out as much light and sound as possible. Hang blackout shades if exterior light (from streetlights or car headlights) is getting in, try sleeping with earplugs or a sleep mask and use a white noise app on your smartphone instead of a floor fan to block out noise from passing cars or barking dogs. Maintain a temperature of no more than 70 degrees and ensure that the room is well-ventilated.
Finally, make sure your mattress is comfortable, with no lumps or signs of uneven wear and get yourself some comfortable sheets and blankets and a pillow that holds your head and neck at a comfortable angle. If you find sleeping in an empty bed to be distracting, consider allowing the family dog to keep you company until you’ve rediscovered your sleeping groove.
You obviously want to remember and honor your departed partner, but redecorating your bedroom can help you move on by creating a look that’s uniquely yours. Sometimes, altering a familiar space has a renewing effect. Try repainting with a color you find especially soothing, hang some new artwork and rearrange the furniture. Anything that maximizes the restful qualities of your bedroom is a positive change.
Ease into a new routine
Sleep experts advise that following some kind of bedtime routine helps by alerting your system it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Start winding down an hour before bedtime and avoid ingesting anything stimulating (no coffee or alcohol). Other sleep strategies include reading a few chapters of your favorite book; enjoying a warm cup of tea; taking a bath, meditating, or recording your thoughts in a grief journal. Make a point of going to bed at the same time every night.
So you’ve rearranged the bedroom and started following a regular bedtime routine but sleep just won’t come. Make a point of following some self-care strategies. That means indulging in some activities that have special meaning for you and which you find especially relaxing. Take a walk in the woods or binge watch your favorite movies or television program. Get outside and do some gardening or take up a new hobby such as genealogy, anything that involves your mind completely and draws your thoughts away from your problems.
Don’t try to deny grief; it’s a natural human reaction to profound personal loss. If it’s affecting your mental and physical health, try establishing new habits and routines that distract you from grief can make it easier to sleep and begin a healthy new life.