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How to Improve Your Sleep When You’ve Just Lost a Loved One

December 11, 2018

Sleeplessness is a common issue for people in bereavement. This is unfortunate since sleep is critical to our well-being and can help our bodies and minds heal from the trauma of losing a loved one. In fact, sleep plays a key role in our ability to regulate mood and make decisions. Follow these tips to get a better sleep, no matter how impossible it may seem.

 

Try Relaxation Techniques at Night

 

Racing thoughts and regrets about a loved one's death are bound to keep you from getting a good sleep. So, Psychology Today recommends performing relaxation exercises to help reduce stress and encourage your body to relax in the evenings. For example, practicing deep breathing causes your body to enter a state of enhanced relaxation by reducing muscle tension, lowering blood pressure and slowing your heart rate. This tells the brain that it's time to relax and go to sleep. Guided imagery can also help reduce distressing feelings at night. To get started, you can seek the help of a therapist or find guided recordings online.

 

Set Up Your Bedroom for Quality Sleep

 

After the loss of a spouse, the bedroom environment can feel lonely and empty. In this case, you may benefit from rearranging your room to better focus on sleep quality and reduce feelings of sadness. Only keep items and decorations in your bedroom that are associated with relaxation and sleep. Your bedroom should be a comfortable and quiet space. Invest in good window coverings to keep it dark, turn your thermostat down so the room is cool, and get a white noise machine if sounds from outside often wake you up in the night. While you’re at it, pick up a quality supportive mattress to reduce back problems and help you feel more rested in the morning.

 

Give Sleep Gadgets a Try

 

High-tech sleep gadgets may be able to help you sleep deeper and longer. However, it’s hard to know which pieces of technology out there are actually useful and which are simply cute gimmicks. Some of the best sleep gadgets for improving sleep include white noise machines for blocking out distracting sounds; stay-cool pillows for ultimate head support, and sleep trackers that show you how to improve your personal sleep habits. These devices can help turn your bedroom into the ultimate sleep-inducing environment.

 

Get Physically Active

 

When you’re grieving, self-care is more important than ever before. Relaxing, eating healthy, and exercising are some of the best ways to nurture your body for better sleep when you're struggling with grief. Try to get your body moving whenever possible, whether it’s during a lunch break at work or first thing when you wake up. Both the type and timing of exercise have an impact on sleep quality, so aim for high-impact exercises such as running or spin class. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime or your body may become too stimulated to sleep. Instead, try to work out in the morning or early afternoon.

 

Stop Eating in the Evenings

 

Eating heavy meals too close to bedtime keep your digestive system working, preventing you from falling asleep. But, some foods are worse than others. Try to avoid anything fatty or high in protein including chicken, milk, and ice cream. Similarly, stay away from carbohydrates such as pasta or pizza, which cause blood sugar to spike. Coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, and acidic foods should also be avoided near bedtime. Instead of snacking, develop a healthy bedtime routine that helps your body wind down and prepare your brain for sleep.

 

The most important thing to remember when caring for yourself after a loss is to do what makes you feel good. For some, that means keeping a grief journal to externalize their thoughts. For others, it's getting up at the crack of dawn to run. Taking the time to care for yourself and get quality sleep can make a make the grieving process just a bit easier on you.

 

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