Life is turned upside down after a loved one dies. Nothing makes sense. Nothing feels safe. Any routine one had is gone out the window. Some people lose their appetite while others overeat to try and cope. Most people have difficulty sleeping and often others will encourage them to take sleeping pills. *Only do this if your doctor feels it is necessary. In my opinion, I am not in favour of people rushing out to take medication to make them sleep. Why? Because it is not uncommon to experience sleep disturbances following the death of a loved one or suffering a significant loss. Often people will tell you that the nights are the hardest. I certainly found this to be true after my husband died.
My daughters would be in bed and the house was just so quiet so fairly early in the evening, my thoughts would be turned to what was and what will never be again. I would go to bed but toss and turn and I would be up and down, pacing the floor until all hours of the morning. It was terrible. And you know how it is when you keep telling yourself that you need to get to sleep…the more you nag yourself about it, the harder it is.
It is not uncommon to have dreams about our loved one’s when they die. This is form of expressing our grief and dreams help to facilitate mourning. On the other hand, an individual may experience nightmares and then find it difficult to allow him or herself to go to sleep. It’s important for them to find a trusted person they can talk to who will understand and provide guidance.
The good news is that the recommended nightly requirements for sleep do not have to be linear. As long as person is getting adequate rest breaks and little catnaps here and there, it’s okay. If you, or someone you know, are experiencing a disturbance in your sleep pattern because of a loss, understand that this is normal and eventually your ability to sleep will increase. Until that happens, try the following:
- Build in rest breaks throughout the day – even taking 20 – 30 minutes at a time to lie down in a quiet room by yourself will help to rest your mind and rejuvenate your body.
- If you are tossing and turning in bed, lay on the sofa with the television turned on low.
- Place soft music in your room and leave a low, soft light on if it makes you feel more comfortable. Avoid burning candles in the event you do fall asleep.
- Keep a glass of water by your bed and/or sip herbal tea or warm milk.
- Avoid self-medicating with alcohol as a way to fall asleep. Some people may become dependent on alcohol and as their consumption increases, other health risks rise too.
- Avoid taking medications that have been prescribed for someone else. Well-meaning family and friends may offer you their ‘sleeping pills’ but it is unwise to take them. I am not a fan of giving people sleeping pills or tranquilizers because they are grieving; however, I am not a medical doctor and if you feel you do need something, then you should be seen by a physician. Don’t just start taking something because it worked for someone else.