Grief is different for everyone, but it is very common for people to experience sleep problems after losing a loved one. Sleep deprivation can lead to several serious health problems. A poor night’s sleep can lead to fatigue, mood swings, memory problems, difficulties with concentration, paranoia, and even hallucinations. Over a prolonged period of time, not getting enough sleep increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and mental health issues, including depression and other mood disorders. 

If you are experiencing sleep loss while grieving, it may be time to make some adjustments to your bedtime schedule and environment. Even small adjustments can make it easier to fall asleep and stay that way throughout the night. And when you sleep better, you feel better, making the grieving process somewhat easier.

Creating a Calming Atmosphere

Change Bedroom Color and Sleepwear

A physical change in your environment can help with a figurative new beginning. An inexpensive and easy way to bring new energy into your bedroom is with a new paint color that helps you sleep. Avoid bright colors that excite the senses and instill feelings of restlessness before bed. Instead, look for earth tones or cool colors like deep blue to create a Zen environment.

Upgrade your sleepwear to clothes that keep you cool and comfortable. A cozy pair of pajamas or nightgown can help you get more restful sleep.

Update Your Mattress

The whole eight-years rule for mattresses isn’t hard and fast. If you’re tossing and turning at night, it may be time to replace your mattress even if it isn’t that old. Instead of buying just any old crash pad, look for a model that supports your specific sleep position. Side sleepers need something that is softer. Meanwhile, back and stomach sleepers need a firm surface that keeps the hips from sinking during the night. 

Remove Television

Watching television, especially in the bedroom, is one of the worst things you can do before bed. Zoning out in front of the tube isn’t active enough to work your brain to a tired state. Furthermore, the light can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. If you have a TV in the bedroom, find a new home for it and try some different bedtime hobbies that won’t keep you up at night.

Sort Through Items

As you feel comfortable, begin to sort through and move out some of your spouse's items so that the bedroom is a source of comfort as opposed to grief. Slowly move bedside items, pillows, clothes, shoes, and various knickknacks. If you find some items to be a comfort such as scent or a special blanket, by all means keep those in the room. Perhaps you could spritz your spouse’s favorite cologne or perfume on your pillow, and have a blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal made out of their clothing.

Health Habits for Better Sleep

Exercise During the Day

As great as modern conveniences are, they really do cut down on the amount of physical energy we need to expend on a daily basis. Having too much pent-up energy due to a sedentary lifestyle is a definite contributor to sleep problems. Thankfully the answer is simple—exercise more during the day. Even light exercise can help balance the body and support sleep. Exercise also alleviates feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, helping you feel better overall during this difficult time.

Adapt a Bedtime Routine

Having a few calming activities you participate in before bed can signal to the brain that it’s time to prepare for a restful night’s sleep. When crafting a bedtime routine, avoid over-stimulating activities—relaxation should be your goal. Try taking a warm bath, sipping a mug of herbal tea, and reading a book before bed to wind down.

Eat and Drink Smart

What you eat and drink can have a huge impact on your sleep. While it’s okay to drink caffeine in moderation, cut off the coffee after one in the afternoon to avoid evening jitters. While a nightcap may help you feel drowsy at first, alcohol disrupts restorative rest. Finally, avoid heavy, spicy, and sugary foods before bed. Nothing will keep you up at night quite like an upset stomach. If you are hungry before bed, try a healthy bedtime snack like almond butter on sprouted grain toast or a wholesome cereal with low-fat milk.

If you experience sleep deprivation among your grief symptoms, it’s important to make adjustments to your environment and bedtime routine to facilitate rest. The bedroom should be a calming environment furnished with a supportive mattress and devoid of electronics like televisions. Your quality of sleep is also a reflection of what you do before bed. Exercise daily to release energy and instill an overall feeling of well-being. Create a bedtime routine with healthy habits like taking a warm bath, drinking tea, and reading. Finally, be smart about what you eat and drink before bed and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy foods.

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