When mourning the passing of a loved one, it’s important to take care of yourself and get plenty of sleep. Scientists have demonstrated that sleep plays an important part in brain plasticity and immune function. However, grief can often disrupt your sleeping patterns. Here are a few methods to try when you can’t sleep, courtesy of Shushan Khachatryan, LMFT.
1. Don’t Fight It
Often when you’re trying to sleep and you can’t, your first response is to fight it. It’s easy to get frustrated that you aren’t sleeping, which only makes sleep even harder to come by. If you’re struggling to get to sleep or wake up in the middle of the night, just get out of bed and do something else. Don’t fight sleeplessness; just work with it.
2. Try Something Mundane or Relaxing
Electronics can provide a source of entertainment, communication, and distraction during the grieving process. However, it’s important to turn them off at least 30 minutes before going to sleep so that your body can produce natural chemicals like melatonin, which aid in the sleep process.
If you can’t sleep, do a relaxing activity or something that doesn’t involve much brain power. This can include a household chore, such as folding laundry, doing the dishes, or cleaning.
3. Have a Nightly Routine
A nightly routine can send your body signals that it’s time to go to bed. A nightly routine can include de-stressing activities such as journaling, mindfulness meditation, reading a book, going for a short walk, or coloring. Start your nightly routine an hour before bed so your body can begin to accept the weariness.
4. Exercise Earlier in the Day
Self-care includes exercising regularly. Go for a run or do some exercises that help you feel good. While caffeine can sometimes provide a powerful workout boost, it’s important to remember that taking it too close to bedtime can disrupt normal sleep and adversely affect your circadian clock. If you exercise in the evening, do it no later than 8 p.m. in order to wind down effectively.
5. Eat a High-Fiber Diet
Foods that are high in fat or sugar can alter your body’s normal metabolic patterns before sleep and are a major culprit for sleep problems. The solution to this is eating a high-fiber diet that gives you plenty of healthy options. Leafy greens are always a good idea, but nuts and berries also contain a decent amount of fiber as well. Most fruits and vegetables should be sufficient, as well as whole grains.
6. Avoid Stressful Activities at Night
Stress is one of the most common issues that individuals encounter when they have problems falling asleep. Finding relaxation techniques like meditation is an important part of quieting the mind and getting sleep. There are some responsibilities that can wait until the next day. Give yourself permission to tune out the cares of the world for a little while. You’ve earned it.
7. Invest in Whatever May Help
Sometimes, you get sleep with a little help from a variety of sources. You might need a new mattress or soft, cool bedding. Take a look at your pillows, too. A lumbar pillow can be a great option for something that is decorative but also functional. You can use it like a body pillow or to prop yourself up in bed.
Look into sleep-related tech, too. You may benefit from items such as white noise machines, sleep masks, or other new forms of sleep technology. If it’s in your budget, it’s worth looking into whatever gadgets can help you.
Care for Yourself During this Time
Sleep deprivation frequently occurs with bereavement, says Psychology Today. Because sleep is necessary for mental and physical health, it’s critical for the sufferer to find new sleep techniques and strategies. It can be a struggle, but don’t fight it, and try different methods to find what works for you. The sooner you have quality sleep, the sooner you can focus on living life in a positive and meaningful way.
There is no quick fix for grief, but talking through your emotions and fears can help you to process your experience and perhaps even sleep a little better. Reach out to Shushan Khachatryan, LMFT to set up a session and begin your healing journey.
Author: Jennifer Scott