How Grief Impacts Sleep

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.

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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.”