There’s no guidebook for dealing with the loss of a spouse or a partner. It’s a long, solitary journey full of emotional ups and downs, pushes and pulls. From despair and grief to anger and guilt, obsessive thoughts and stressful emotions can take a huge toll of your quality of life— both while you’re awake and asleep. No matter how much support you have, there will be times where loneliness creeps in, most often during the dark hours of the night.
Loss of sleep is one of the most common— and also disorienting— symptoms of grief. You may have trouble sleeping in the first few days or weeks, and while that is very common, repeat sleepless nights could prevent you from getting the sleep you need to heal your heart and mind. Need some tips to help entice sleep back into your life? Below, you’ll find four tips from experts on sleep, grief and quality of life.
Create a sleep-inducing environment
Make your bedroom more comfortable, catering to your sleep needs. For example, if you live in an arid climate or the heat during the winter dries out your sinuses, consider purchasing a humidifier to soothe your skin and nasal passages. If your bedroom gets too much light, hang blackout curtains to stimulate your natural circadian rhythm. Even artificial light can be a culprit, so direct all your lamps away from the bed and turn off your tablet, phone, tv and other screen devices. Finally, don’t forget temperature. A cooler bedroom triggers melatonin, and comfy pajamas and cozy bedding can be very relaxing.
Get some exercise
All it takes is about 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day to improve the quality of your sleep. Exercise encourages your mind and body to spend more time sleeping deeply in order to recover and rebuild from working out. On top of that, the timing of your exercise impacts sleep as well. Early morning or early afternoon workouts will not only maximize your sleep, but maximize your endorphins. This will help you manage stress, anxiety and sadness in healthier ways.
Analyze your sleep
While you may be losing sleep because you are dealing with a major loss, that insight alone is not enough to help you reclaim your Zs. Try using sleep-aiding technology like a sleep tracker, light therapy, and wake-up programs. There are a lot of options out there, and they provide data and feedback that can help you make lifestyle adjustments that will invite sleep. Try to purchase gadgets that offer a trial period or a money-back guarantee so you don’t spend your money on a product that’s not right for you.
Avoid certain foods
Many of us turn to comfort foods in times of stress and strife, but those savory and sweet treats could be the very things keeping us up at night. Ice cream, cakes and foods with dairy can keep our stomachs churning— literally— while chocolate and foods with caffeine stimulate our minds and bodies. Eating within two hours of heading to bed can ramp up your metabolism, when it should be slowing it down. The foods you eat throughout the day can impact the quality of your sleep as well. If you aren’t sleeping well, you might drink more coffee during the day, which, in turn, can keep you awake at night. Naps do a much better job of improving focus and alertness, but can also hurt your night time sleep if taken often or in the late afternoon.
Grief will come in waves, and when that happens, your sleep can really get disrupted. When you aren’t operating off a good night’s rest, your mind and heart aren’t fully able to focus on healing. Trying out these tips will help improve your sleep, but also empower you to better navigate the ups and downs of grief and loss.
Judy Helm Wright