How to cope with insomnia after loss
Posted by AK Lander | On July 25, 2019 09:25
Insomnia is often an effect of a loss or period of grief, in this article, we discuss some ways insomnia can be managed during a difficult time.
When grieving, not only are there several emotional and mental difficulties to face, but there is also a myriad of physical side effects that can be hard to control. Sleeplessness or insomnia can affect many people, not just those who are grieving. But as the lights go out, our minds can fill with thoughts of loved ones and those we have lost.
Not getting enough sleep can have knock-on effects on our health and our immune systems, our moods can change and the ability to handle simple tasks can become difficult. There may be many causes of your sleep loss or insomnia and in this article, we discuss some of the simple actions you can take to help you get a well-rested night.
Sarah from The Penniless Parent explained a little more about how insomnia affected her: “Night is when my mind wakes up but not in a positive way. It behaves like a moth fluttering around a lightbulb. Perhaps it’s because he’s not there, perhaps it’s because I got up late this morning? My mind flits from one scenario to another asking me all the unanswerable questions, how will I cope as the kids grow up? Who’ll teach Isabella to ride a bike? What will I do about the life insurance? Then the dreaded ‘what ifs’ start. At some point in the early hours of the morning, I pass out because the next thing I notice it’s morning. I don’t feel any different. I’ve slept but I’m not rested. That is what insomnia is to me.”
Create a peaceful space
The environment and mood that your bedroom creates will set the tone for your night’s sleep. Making sure your bedroom is a peaceful and tranquil space that is perfect for relaxing in can make all the difference. It can be a good idea to remove all electronic devices from your room and replace them with some candles, these could even be sleep candles. Fill your room with wonderful scents, including lavender that can aid sleep and evoke a sense of calm.
De-cluttering your room, adding cosy bedding and making sure the temperature of the area is at a comfortable setting will all help you doze off into a quiet sleep.
Listen to a podcast or music
For some, noise, when you’re trying to sleep, can be a distraction, but for others, the sound of silence can become daunting. Finding a relaxation podcast or listening to some soothing music is another tranquil way of inducing sleep.
There are many podcasts out there that are specifically designed for those going through a period of grief or just those who struggle to drift off at night. Grief Works is a podcast created by Julia Samuel, a grief psychotherapist of more than twenty-five years who’s aim is to remove the taboo that surrounds grief and normalise it within society.
Coming Back is a podcast designed for those coming back from death, divorce or diagnosis and contains a hybrid of tools, knowledge and advice to help those going through a tough time. This weekly podcast was bought together by Shelby Forsythia who has been through periods of grief herself and wants to help others in similar situations.
Avoid caffeine or alcohol past 5pm
Alcohol and caffeine stimulate the body, meaning you can stay awake and work for longer. However, it won’t help if you are trying to let your body unwind and relax before heading to bed. Consuming alcohol before bed will disrupt your body during its natural sleeping pattern as your organs try to metabolize the alcohol in your system. Caffeine, on the other hand, has opposite effects, alerting your body and keeping you awake for longer. A simple way to increase your bodily fluids and keep your body feeling happy, healthy and ready for sleep is to consume a large amount of water during the day, especially an hour before bed. Avoid any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks after 5pm, as this will give your body time to adjust back to its natural state.
Keep a journal
Journaling allows you to express your emotions and feelings through writing and storytelling. It can be a way of relieving stress, emotions and unwanted thoughts from your mind and onto paper. Journaling for at least 30 minutes before bed or when you wake up can relieve your mind and allow you to sleep through the night knowing you have expressed your thoughts that were being held in your mind. Writing down any thoughts or feelings that may be keeping you awake can help ease your mind and allows you to diagnose your thoughts.
People who have been through a period of grief sometimes find it therapeutic to write grief poems about their experiences. These poems help ease the pain of grief or loss and are a great way of expressing feelings into emotive writing. These poems don’t have to be for the eyes of anyone else and can stay personal to you for as long as you want.
Do some yoga or meditation
Switching off the body through yoga and meditation is a great way to prepare the body for a restful night’s sleep. Meditation can relieve stress and turn it into relaxation and a peaceful and tranquil state. Completing a session of yoga or meditation for 30 minutes before bed can help ease the mind and release any tension the body may be holding onto.
Elena, who blogs at Elena Lucie spoke to us about how she coped with insomnia after the loss of her son back in 2015: “When pregnant with our first baby I spent months preparing myself for sleepless nights full of cluster feeding and exploding nappies. I never imagined we wouldn’t ever get to bring him home and instead my sleepless nights would be filled with my own cries of our brutal loss. So often I would wake suddenly to phantom baby cries or forget for a split second that he had died only to be hit with the full force of the devastating reality.
“Remembering how useful hypnobirthing had been during pregnancy I searched for guided meditations to listen to before bed and during the night. Teaching my mind to allow my thoughts to pass gently and focus on breathing really helped relax me into sleep again. Grief is so overwhelming and all-consuming but practising mindful meditation gave me that little moment of reprieve to allow me to switch off for a while, giving both my mind and body the space it needed to begin to heal.”
Light some candles, dim the lights and pop on some relaxing music and let your body unwind and relax. Stretch and breathe to the music and allow your body to fall into a sleepy state, you should find it easier than ever to fall into a deep and peaceful sleep once you get into bed.
Kayla who blogs at Earning by the Sea had similar sleeping troubles when her dad sadly passed: “I had awful insomnia when my Dad died. It was 10 years ago and it still amazes me that I survived so long on so little sleep! I found meditation really helped and I also had some hypnosis. It definitely put me on a more spiritual path which actually helped with my grief too!”
We spoke to Jamie Birch who blogs at Mama Bear, she spoke to us about coping with insomnia after a diagnosis and how she tried to overcome it:
"At the start of 2019, I was diagnosed with a progressive autoimmune condition called Psoriatic Arthritis. There is no cure for Psoriatic Arthritis, a condition whereby the immune system affects the joints, and this was a really difficult reality to face at just 27.
“My mental health plummeted over fear for the future, and I began to grieve the life I had planned for myself. I felt so angry, scared sad over the adjustments I would need to make in life, and also how bad things might get. My sleep was drastically affected, and at night my mind would go into overdrive. I found a number of things to help my insomnia, and continue to practice these regularly. Meditating before bed. I use a free app called Mindfulness on my phone and listen to meditations to help me fall asleep. This definitely helps me to stop over-thinking things as I am distracted focusing on the guided meditation.”
Turn off electronics
Electronics can have a serious impact on our sleeping patterns and it is recommended that you turn off electronic devices at least an hour before you go to bed. Making sure your room is dark and free of any distractions means your body can totally relax and unwind without any unwanted noises. Some studies show that blue light can contribute to alertness, so be aware of the colour of your alarm clock and that this isn’t having an effect on your sleeping pattern.
Popping your phone to one side and reading a book before bed is a common trick for those who struggle to nod off to sleep, or as we have previously mentioned, choosing a relaxing podcast or some soothing music instead of using your phone also has proven results.
Hayley who blogs at Miss Manypennies explained that opening up to friends and loved ones made her feel at more at ease: “One of my best friends died last summer and I suffered from insomnia for quite a while after and would have days where I would have to try and function after literally being awake the whole night. What made the most difference for me was opening up to people about how I was feeling and how it was affecting me - it took a while but talking really did help and my sleep gradually improved as a result.”
Jamie also recommends practising mindfulness: “Practicing mindfulness. When waking in the night with horrible thoughts, I allow myself to justify the thought and then visualise it floating away like a cloud. Before I did this I would have negative thoughts and then panic that they were keeping me awake, so practising this visualisation really helps.”
No matter how you’re feeling after grief or loss, it is important to look make sure you look after number one and we hope some of these small tips will help you get that restful night’s sleep. If you want to find out more about the services we offer or you want to buy a memorial headstone, get in contact today on 0800 377 7057.