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How Grief Impacts Your Sleeping Habits

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grief_impacts_sleeping_habitsThe following is the second post in our series about how grief affects various aspects of our lives. Read our first post on how grief affects your nutritional health.

The loss of a loved one is very traumatic. Apart from the severe emotional strain, grief is often accompanied by intense physical symptoms that affect our sleeping behaviors.

For example, insomnia is the result of anxiety and stress in which you have trouble falling and staying asleep. This may lead to sleep deprivation, which intensifies the symptoms of grief, making day-to-day life even more challenging to manage.

So what can you do? Below, we take a look at how grieving impacts your ability to sleep, and tips to overcome these obstacles.

1. Disrupts Regular Sleep Habits and Patterns

Grief can disrupt regular sleep habits and patterns, especially for those who have lost a partner or spouse with whom they shared a bed for many years.  

Going to bed amplifies their sense of absence, making it very difficult to get a good night’s rest without that person’s presence. As a result, it’s common to toss and turn, and dream about the deceased as the brain processes the grief.

This can cause people to sleep too little (insomnia) or too much (hypersomnia), which can lead to other physical and mental symptoms.

Tip: As hard as it may be to fall asleep, it’s important to keep a consistent bedtime each and every night. Keeping a steady schedule will help you get into a regular routine. Do your best to avoid naps during the day, and watching television or looking at your phone at night. These activities make it harder to fall asleep. Also, working out—even a simple walk around the block—during the day helps physically tire the body, so you can sleep better at night.

2. Causes Depression

Sleep is a fundamental part of the grieving process. So a lack of sleep is particularly dangerous, as it may heighten the severity of a person’s grief response.  

Quality sleep may promote a normal grieving process in which a person can, over time, progress through the stages of grief. Poor sleep, on the other hand, may be a risk factor for mental health problems, such as depression, or changes in overall behavior and mood that complicate the ability to fall asleep.

And because the bereaved experience many different emotions throughout the grieving process, it’s important to get quality sleep, as it helps to rationally process and navigate those feelings.

Tip: If you’re having a hard time sleeping, considering talking with someone to process your thoughts and feelings surrounding the death. Sometimes verbally processing our fears is the best line of defense against the anxieties that keep us up at night. You may also want to practice relaxation exercises before bed, including yoga or meditation.

3. Impacts Healing

Our ability to heal is greatly impacted by sleep. After all, a lack of sleep can exacerbate the grief we feel, as emotions take over. That’s why it’s critical to learn again how to fall and stay asleep.  

While breaking the cycle can seem daunting, it’s crucial for healing—both emotionally and physically following a loss. 

Tip: It’s can be hard to power down your brain at the end of the day, especially following a loss. To calm your mind and body, consider taking a hot bath, dimming the lights, drinking tea, picking up a book and removing electronic devices. This will help you create a space conductive for healing and sleeping.

Get Access to More Grief Resources

Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? For more information on grief, plus healthy tips to help you heal, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly grief newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing.

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Cathy Nichols
Cathy Nichols
Considers it an honor as a Certified Celebrant to listen to life stories, and then design and conduct meaningful tributes. Cathy also trains celebrants nationally, equipping them to share those legacies in ways that comfort and enlighten. Honorably serving Busch families since 2004.
 

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