How Grief Impacts Sleep

The way each person handles the loss of a loved one is unique to that individual. The way someone handles grief in terms of symptoms depends on him or herself as well, but a disturbance in sleep is common. Nights of restlessness and tossing and turning with eyes wide awake can lead to a case of insomnia. With proper mindfulness and being proactive, you can limit the impact sleep disturbance makes on your life and your grieving process.

Definition of Grief

First, let’s define grief. Grief is often attributed to long term sadness and mourning over a loved one. Your thoughts are consumed with your loved one. Activities you once enjoyed don’t seem to excite you as much. Even food tastes less good. You may be going through the motions but not feeling anything. Even though grief is unpleasant, it is an essential life experience that everyone must face. Quite simply, it is a part of life itself.

Even so, we like to minimize our symptoms of grief and move forward as soon as we are able. Since sleep is so essential to each of us emotionally, physically, and psychologically, it is so important that we get sufficient sleep in spite of grief. You may have trouble sleeping due to reasons like financial issues caused by the loss of the loved one, or sleeping in the bed you shared with your partner, or intrusive and traumatic thoughts. However, by being aware of the effects of sleep deprivation and knowing active steps you can take to ensure you get enough sleep, this significant side effect of grief is more manageable.

Primary Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation impacts you as a grieving person on three levels: cognitive, emotional, and physical. Remember that sleep enables you to make decisions based on good cognitive judgment. Sleep also strengthens your memory and restores you so you don’t become forgetful. Sleep greatly strengthens your emotional life as well through balancing mood and reducing stress. Sleep helps your physical body in a number of ways, including helping replenish your immune system, so you are less likely to get sick. Quite simply, a lack of sleep leaves your brain exhausted and can cause a number of long-term health problems. So insomnia shouldn’t be ignored but attended to mindfully.

The Ideal Sleep Environment

In lieu of your grief, there are several tips and guidelines for creating the optimal sleep environment, which helps you combat your sleep disturbance. Here are a few:

  • Make sure the room you sleep in is well-ventilated and between 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body must cool down in order to fall asleep, so as long as your head is above the covers at this temperature, the lower air temperature should help you fall asleep.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and that your mattress and bedding are right for you. Remember that if you build it, your sleep will come! Take this moment in your life to invest on the right mattress for your needs.
  • Make sure that you associate your bed and bedroom only with non-stress related activities. You want your body and brain to associate your bedroom with sleep only.

While grief is unavoidable and just a part of life that each of us handles in a slightly different way, by taking care of yourself and being mindful of your sleeping environment, you are empowered to confront and minimize sleep disturbance.

. . . .

Lisa SmallsPosted by Lisa Smalls, a freelance writer from North Carolina. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008. After experiencing the loss of a dear family friend shortly after graduating college and seeing the impact this loss had on herself and her family, she became inspired to educate others on how to process grief through her writing. While she work on other freelance projects, encouraging and educating others who have gone through loss remains her lifelong passion.

“Grief is one of the most difficult emotions to grapple with while we are alive on this earth but when you come to understand how your grief can impact your life, only then can you begin to overcome it.”

Interview with Barb Newton

Barb Newton

It goes beyond words how lovely my visit with Barb was as we sat down to discuss her personal journey in her field. Barb has been a hospice nurse for the past twenty years; the last five being spent with us at Angels Grace Hospice. It was heartwarming to hear that Barb became interested in hospice while taking care of her Aunt Marie who was terminally ill. For Barb, she has always had a special connection for those on their next journey and discovered the love and compassion for this career.

Barb was blessed to meet her husband through her career as a hospice nurse. Joe is a Chaplain at Angels Grace Hospice and together, they are also the owners of our very own pet therapy dog Mizuno. She has two lovely children; her son is a rocky mountain home builder and her daughter is a nurse.

Our lovely visit ended with Barb giving me the quote she treasures by Mother Teresa:

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing”.

Feb / Mar / Apr 2019 Newsletter

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Amid growing concern about the high rate of suicide among the nation’s veterans, researchers have found that Veterans Affairs (VA) health system patients with advanced lung cancer who had at least one palliative care visit were 81% less likely to die by suicide, according o a report published in the Annals of American Thoracic Society.

Download the PDF to read more.

Care Home Trials Virtual Cycling Trips for Dementia Patients

Stapely Care Home in Liverpool, England, is trialling a scheme where exercise bikes and videos are used to enable residents living with dementia to go on virtual cycling trips to locations around the world.

Staff say the project, which originated in Norway, has boosted wellbeing and happiness.

This 2-minute video explains more.

Watch the video

Filming and editing: Tom Brada

V9-4: Health Benefits of Social Interaction

If you are elderly and living alone, or a time-consumed caregiver for someone with a serious illness, you may find yourself removed from day-to-day interactions with others, leaving you feeling especially secluded and lonely.


“People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress”, according to an article in the New York Times.

Nov / Dec / Jan 2019 Newsletter

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Lack of diagnosis was most strongly linked to Hispanic ethnicity, while unawareness of diagnosis was linked to lower educational attainment. Both situations were associated with patients making medical visits by themselves, according to a report published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Download the PDF to read more.

A Tedx Talk: What’s Wrong with Dying?

The answer might seem simple, but in the hands of Lesley Hazleton, the question takes us on a surprisingly humorous and thought-provoking journey into what it would actually mean to live forever. And whether we’d truly want to. A frequent speaker and ‘Accidental Theologist,’ Hazleton uses wit and wisdom to challenge our ideas not only about death, but about what it is to live well.

Lesley Hazleton has traced the roots of conflict in several books, including compelling ‘flesh-and-blood’ biographies of Muhammad and Mary, and casts “an agnostic eye on politics, religion, and existence” on her blog, Her newest book, Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, celebrates the agnostic stance as “rising above the flat two-dimensional line of belief/unbelief, creating new possibilities for how we think about being in the world.”

In it, she explores what we mean by the search for meaning, invokes the humbling perspective of infinity and reconsiders what we talk about when we talk about soul.

Aug / Sep / Oct 2018 Newsletter

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Download the PDF to read more.

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More and more Americans turn to hospice care when facing a life-limiting illness, and of these patients, a growing majority have an illness other than cancer.

Woman and nurse

This is according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), which recently published a report providing an overview of hospice care