It is not uncommon to experience sleep disturbances following the death of a loved one or suffering a significant loss. People will tell you that the nights are the hardest. I certainly found this to be true after my husband died and as I struggled to cope with other losses in life.
When my husband died, I did the strangest things. My daughters would be in bed and the house would fall quiet early in the evening. It would not take long for my thoughts to turn to what was and what will never be again. I would try to go to bed. I would toss and turn and find myself getting up and down and 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.
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.
- Do not 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.
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