We are proud to print an article about aspects of coping with sleep during bereavement from the perspective of a widow called Sara Bailey. Sara sadly lost her husband and has found that she would very much like to help others in the same position as her by writing this article about how to try and sleep better when grieving. Please take a moment to read her words and we all hope they help.
Ask Yourself What YOU Can Do to Sleep Better Through Grief
Grief is a time of intense changes. You don’t feel like yourself, and the tough emotional and physical realities often make it hard to sleep. Grieving the loss of a loved one is a process that you can’t rush, but understanding what’s keeping you up and changing some routines can help you rest better.
Is your bedroom a relaxing space?
When your thoughts and feelings are keeping you up, you have to quiet your mind in order to relax and sleep. Don’t underestimate the power of your environment to impact these feelings. This is especially important if you have lost your spouse. Redecorating your bedroom can make it feel more tranquil and give you a sanctuary that is all your own. Start by choosing a color for your bedroom walls that is more conducive to sleep. Earth tones and lighter colors are soothing, whereas bright colors are energizing and could interfere with sleep. Then add accessories and comfortable bedding in complimentary soothing tones.
Are you comfortable at night?
Comfort may sound minor when grief makes it hard to sleep, but you want to do everything you can to eliminate problems. Many people don’t realize that they’re using the wrong type of mattress for their sleeping position, and getting the right one may be part of the solution. You may also want to check the temperature in your room. According to Mind Body Green, our bodies are programmed to sleep when the temperature is lower at night. Replicate that natural temperature drop by setting your thermostat lower.
Are you working with your body’s natural sleep rhythms?
Even when you’re going through a tough time like grief, our bodies have natural rhythms that regulate sleep. When sleep habits are erratic, your sleep rhythm gets out of balance. Going to sleep at a consistent time and having a regular bedtime routine is the best way to get that rhythm back on track. It may take a few nights of sticking with your routine for your body’s internal clock to catch on, so be consistent.
Sleep technology devices, such as the FitSleep, can also facilitate this process. This device helps you get into a deep sleep faster and helps you sleep more efficiently. The important thing with using tech devices is to find the right ones that are backed by evidence so you don’t waste money on gadgets that don’t really make any difference.
Does your bedtime routine include relaxation?
Not only should your bedtime routine be consistent, but it also needs to be focused on relaxation. To start, be mindful of what does NOT promote relaxation. Using electronics before going to sleep, and even having them in your bedroom, is not conducive to relaxing. Screens emit blue light that interferes with your natural sleep cycle. Not to mention, being constantly connected can add to stress.
Instead of checking social media or the news at night, dedicate some time to relaxing activities. The blog Dreams recommends using relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, to calm your body and mind. Along with relaxation techniques, you may benefit from cognitive-behavior therapy, which gives you tools to manage negative thoughts that run through your mind at night.
Are lifestyle factors keeping you up?
When your world feels turned upside down, your daily life probably looks a little different from what you’re used to. This is a time when it’s easy to slip into comfort foods and drop healthy routines like exercise, but doing that may make sleep troubles worse. Exercising is one of the best ways to calm anxiety and sleep better. What you eat and drink also matters. Anything that has caffeine, lots of fat, spice, or sugar can keep you from sleeping well.
Changing things like what you eat at night may seem trivial compared to the feelings of grief, but these small changes can make a big difference. Along with these daily habits, relaxing at night gives your body and mind a break. All these strategies work together to help you tune out negative thoughts and truly unwind for better sleep.