I am honored to share a guest post by Sara Bailey, who after losing her husband Greg, created TheWidow.net to support her fellow widows and widowers. She is also the author of the upcoming book Hope and Help After Loss: A Guide For Newly Widowed Parents.

8 Techniques for Sleep While Dealing with Loss

Extended grief after the loss of someone you love can result in a condition called complicated grief, which can disrupt sleep. During times like this, it’s important to prioritize targeted self-care to alleviate some of the major symptoms of grief and stress. Here are some techniques that can help.

1. Invest in a good mattress

A mattress is one of the most important sleep tools you’ll use. If you’re experiencing pain with your current mattress, it’s time to look into getting a new one. If you’re a side-sleeper, look for a mattress that’s more cushiony and can support your joints. If you’re a stomach- or back-sleeper, get something that is more broadly supportive. 

2. Exercise a little bit daily

It’s been reported that only about 11 percent of people who don’t exercise say they get enough sleep each night. Exercise can be highly useful in promoting restful sleep and doesn’t have to be difficult. You can get out and start taking daily walks. There are also a lot of options for doing yoga, swimming, or other community group classes. A little bit of regular exercise can go a long way. Plus, it can be highly therapeutic when dealing with grief. 

3. Develop a nightly routine

Having a consistent bedtime ritual—whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, doing yoga, or something else—can train your body to sleep on a normal schedule. The ritual can make a difference just by triggering your body and alerting it that it’s time to start winding down and preparing for sleep.

4. Rearrange your room

Whether it’s the color of the room, the temperature you keep it at while you sleep, or even the level of darkness, room environment is an important part of falling—and staying—asleep. If your sleep is regularly disturbed, try rearranging your room. Get blackout curtains and move your bed into a better position, perhaps against a different wall. New pillows might be useful as well. It’s important to remember that changing your physical environment can help improve your mental space.

5. Try floating therapy

According to Time, scientists and researchers are finding that flotation therapy is an extremely useful and proven way to relax and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress, which often accompany the grieving process. Flotation is one of the many different therapies you can try to help yourself sleep better. What makes flotation therapy special is that it’s a sensory deprivation experience. You’ll be able to calm your mind and drift off more easily.

6. Turn off your devices

The blue light from electronics can mimic natural light and, therefore, prevent your body from naturally producing melatonin to help you fall asleep. If you have a habit of watching TV before bed, try reading a book instead. A book can help you calm down—unless you’re reading something particularly exciting. Turn off any electronics at least half an hour before going to bed. Avoid any distressing news or other stimulating experiences before bed. Your body will be able to wind down more easily.

7. Avoid certain foods before bed

Certain foods, which some people think help them sleep more easily, like alcohol, can actually do more harm than good and prevent truly restful slumber. Try to avoid eating at least an hour before bed. However, if you are someone who enjoys a late-night snack, opt for something light. You can eat cereal, or maybe some carrots and dip.

8. Let your thoughts go

Many people who have a difficult time falling asleep find that different stressors or cyclic thoughts run through their mind and prevent them from sleeping. Get a notebook where you can review important tasks you accomplished for the day or write down worries. This can relieve stress and help you gather your thoughts.

Sleep is an important part of recovering from grief. While you will always feel the loss of a loved one, you can continue on in life and enjoy all of its benefits. The first step is to get some sleep, and life will begin to feel brighter again.

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