Grief is about things we have lost. Right now we have lost much: our routines; our face-to-face social interactions; our freedom; and our safety.
It can be natural for the resulting grief to disrupt our sleeping patterns, challenging our ability to reclaim a full night of restful, uninterrupted sleep. Our lack of sleep can be the result of our mind working overtime, rehashing what we have heard or experienced throughout our day.
While we cannot change our current situation, we can choose how we react to what we are experiencing. We can own our emotions, be honest with how we are feeling, and we can accept the things we do have control over. All of this may feel more challenging when we are tired. It is much easier with a full night of restful sleep.
When we do not get a good night’s sleep our feelings may become accentuated. We can feel irritable, stressed, and lack patience. All this, may tax our immune system, stopping it from producing the proteins our body needs to fight off environmental toxins, inflammation, and disease.
Below are some tips which may help bring peace to your sleepless nights:
- Routine can create a sense of safety and control. Set a time, a regular time, to go to bed and to rise each day. Routines are supportive actions, helpful in maintaining a positive mental attitude.
- Train yourself to see your bedroom as your sanctuary. This is not a place to set up your home office or to take your afternoon nap. Condition your body to see your bedroom as the place where you sleep, period.
- Most of us like to begin our day with a fresh cup of coffee or hot tea. Caffeine can disturb sleep patterns. Be careful to limit your caffeine intake after 3:00 pm.
- Bottled up emotions can cause anxiety and may contribute to sleepless nights. It is important to label your feelings and to share them with a close friend or relative. It is also important to be open and honest with yourself about the emotions you are experiencing.
- If you do not feel comfortable verbally sharing your feelings perhaps you may find it helpful to put your thoughts down on paper. Begin your day by writing in a personal journal. Do your best to identify the thoughts which are keeping you up at night. If writing is not something you feel comfortable doing, perhaps you could paint your emotions onto a canvas.
- While it can become very comfortable curling up on the couch, watching Netflix, our bodies were designed to move. Incorporate a few simple stretches into your daily routine. Perhaps you can engage in some online yoga, exercise, or Qigong programs. Depending on where you live you might still be able to walk around the block or access the local high school track.
- If you find you need an activity to help you settle at night try meditation or listening to soft quiet music. Reading may also help you to relax into sleep. Whatever you choose, please do not choose your phone or your tablet; the light from the screen can create the opposite effect and suggest to your body it is morning instead of night.
- Limit your intake of news, especially an hour before bedtime. Your mind will continue to replay the last few things you heard. If you feel you must remain current, limit news access to one or two 15-minute sections per day.
- A trick which works for many, including me, is deep breathing exercises. Really focus on your breath, entering and leaving your body. Long intentional breaths. As you breathe open your eyes. As you release your breath close your eyes. Before long, you will be asleep.
- Consider investing in a weighted blanket which are designed to provide a warm, gentle pressure, similar to being held (known as Deep Touch Pressure). This has been shown to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of sleep which has a calming effect.
- Check with your local health food store for natural products designed to combat restlessness.
- Do your best to NOT focus on the fact you cannot sleep.
- If you cannot fall asleep where you are, physically move, to a spare room or the couch. Changing locations can be enough to allow sleep to come.
- Finally, if you do awaken during the night, write down what is on your mind and give yourself permission to think about it in the morning. Repeat whatever technique(s) worked for you earlier in the night.
Sleepless nights can be frustrating but know there is nothing wrong with you. Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. Currently, there is more collective grief than we have ever experienced before. Be kind to yourself. Be patient and experiment with the above suggestions. Most of all, when you are feeling anxious, hit the pause button, review your current situation, and take a few moments to reassure yourself you are OK, right here and right now.
Tammy Adams, offering grief support, in-person or online, Canada-wide.
To learn more about the Grief Recovery Method process and how to “let go” of the past book a 20 minute free phone consult with Tammy Adams, Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialist. Learn more at www.tadams.ca