The grief of dealing with the loss of a loved one often comes in waves during the day and even at night. When that happens, you can become lethargic during the day while lying awake at night. When you aren’t getting a good night’s rest, you are too exhausted — mentally and physically — to focus on healing.
When you lose someone you love, especially a child or a partner, you may feel like the pain will never end, and in some ways, it never really does. But in other ways, it will — it just takes time and an emphasis on healthy coping choices. These choices get harder to make when you are struggling with sleep. Try out a few of these ideas on improving your sleep, which can also improve your ability to move through the ups and downs of grief and loss.
Exercise Regularly — But Not Late at Night
Regular exercise has profoundly positive effects on our physical and mental health, and those benefits are especially true when we are dealing with grief or trauma. Working up a sweat isn’t just good for your body; it’s also helpful for your mind. Exercise is an endorphin-booster, which helps regulate your mood and manage stress. When you exercise, whether it’s a run in the morning or walking your dog during your lunch break, your body needs longer and deeper sleep to recover. You are literally wearing put your mind and body — but in a good way! Keep in mind, however, that the opposite can happen if you workout shortly before bed. After a workout, you can often feel more energized and amped up. This energy boost can last several hours, so it’s important that you don’t schedule your workout too close to bedtime.
Start a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Your mind and body may need a regular signal that it’s time to start winding down. If you initiate a bedtime ritual at the same time every night, your body starts to learn when it’s time to get sleepy. You can take a warm shower or a relaxing bath to get your muscles to release the tension that comes with holding on to your grief all day. Slip into cozy, comfy pajamas and then read a good book or meditate, giving your mind permission to let go of any painful memories that intrude your sleep. Give your routine a boost by making sure your bedroom is a space that encourages rest and relaxation. Drop the lights low and kick the temperature down when you begin your bedtime routine so that your body starts making melatonin.
Avoid Bad Habits You Probably Don’t Even Know You Had
One major change you can make to improve your sleep is to let go of some activities that might be keeping you up. Some of them you may know aren’t so good for you, such as like drinking a lot of coffee during the day or eating a sugary snack too close to bedtime. Others you may not realize are keeping you up, like spending time on your smartphone or tablet. Not only does the light from the screens mess with our natural sleep rhythms, but we also get stimulated by whatever we are viewing — a video on YouTube, photos on Facebook, or a trending hashtag on Twitter. For people dealing with grief, sometimes we find ourselves looking at pictures and videos from cherished times with our lost loved one — luring our minds away from sleep and plunging us into some deep (and possibly painful) emotions.
Rest assured that sleep will come, though it may need a little encouragement. A good night’s rest will do wonders for your ability to make decisions about your grief, whether that’s now or later. Be patient with yourself — you shouldn’t force recovery. Hopefully, trying out some of these sleep tips will help your work through your grief, day by day and night by night.
Written by Sara Bailey
Photo by Pexel