By: Sara Bailey
Losing a loved one — especially a spouse or another close family member — can wreak havoc on your ability to get quality sleep. Grief, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and even anger can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and not be disturbed by bad dreams, night terrors, and other disturbances. The tough part is that you truly need to get good rest after a loss. Your mind and body need sleep to help you work through your emotions during the light of day. Here are some ways you can help yourself to get the rest you need.
1. Make Some Changes to Your Bedroom
How you deal with a close loss is specific to you and your circumstances, but the majority of people are better served — emotionally — by making some small changes to their home environment. You don’t want to eradicate your loved one’s memory from your room, but you do want to alter it enough that your brain begins to consider moving on. One method is to keep what brings you joy and get rid of the rest. Save a blanket, shirt, or photos. Change can be cathartic. Maybe try rearranging the room or slapping a new colour paint on the walls. Angie’s List says that the colours most conducive to good sleep are light blues and earth tones, and to eliminate bright colours.
If you don’t have the emotional strength to sort through and get rid of your loved one’s possessions, you can put it off. It’s ok. Put it all in a storage unit and sort through it when you’re ready. Just remember that you may need to rent a truck or van to help you relocate those items; AnyVan, for example, offers reasonably priced and flexible moving solutions depending on location and the amount of items you need transported.
2. Get Out and Get Moving
A lack of daily exercise can negatively affect your sleep. Why? Because without it, your body doesn’t quite know how to keep a consistent sleep-wake cycle. When you exercise, you not only release feel-good endorphins in your brain and reduce unhealthy levels of stress, but you also expend energy and raise your heart rate and core body temp. When this later subsides, it’s easier for your body to get tired. That’s the cycle you want to be in. Thirty minutes per day of moderate exercise (brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking) should do the trick. If you don’t want to invest in home gym equipment, consider signing up for a gym member, but keep in mind that the national average monthly cost is around £40.
3. Prepare Your Body for Sleep
Calming your mind and body in the hours before your bedtime is crucial. Limit your exposure to stimulation — TV, internet, iPad games. Take a warm bath. Read a book. The way to think about this is to make relaxation your first goal and sleep will follow. You also need to know which foods to avoid before you try to sleep (processed carbs, sugar, and dairy) and limit your overall food and beverage intake during the 60 to 90 minutes before your head hits the pillow.
4. Cut Back on the Booze
While a nightcap may seem like the right idea — especially if you’re grieving — it may be inhibiting your body’s ability to get quality sleep. Alcohol can worsen breathing problems, disrupt your circadian rhythms, and prevent your brain from falling into the most restful stage of your sleep cycle (REM sleep). Try something non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated before bed.
5. Let Technology Help
There are some great gadgets out there you should try if sleep continues to elude you. Some good options include Bluetooth-enabled devices that softly vibrate underneath your pillow, bedside clocks that help you fall asleep and wake up with soothing light, and devices that detect snoring and inflate to correct your head position.
Nothing comes easy in the aftermath of losing a loved one. Life becomes more challenging. Things that were once routine now pose a struggle. Sleep can be one of these things, but it’s the most important one to fix. That’s because good sleep can trickle down and positively affect many other parts of your life. It’s one of the major keys to a healthy grieving process.
Written by: Sara Bailey at thewidow.net
Edited by: Shelby Hale