Coping with Insomnia: How to Get Rest after the Loss of a Loved One

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Coping with grief is no small feat: it takes a drastic toll on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the sufferer, and can cause a whole lot of side effects. Inability to sleep well is an infuriating symptom of grief, as usually the grieving person just wants to shut out some of the ‘noise’.

There are some tips that can help you deal with insomnia after the loss of a loved one, which can help reduce the impacts on your immune system, your mood and your daily wellbeing.

1. Exercise is Important

Person Rolling a Mat

It may seem like a tired piece of advice, but physical exercise, no matter how tame, has significant positive impacts on your wellbeing whilst grieving. Not only does physical exercise increase the concentration of endorphins of the body, which help with mood regulation, but it physically tires you out and encourages more sound sleep at night. Any form of light exercise can have these effects, be it yoga, a brisk walk or some basic cardio.

Here are some Easy Exercises to Help You Heal from Grief.

2. Encourage Circadian Rhythms

Yellow Flowers Spending time outdoors during the day can help you to settle back into a more regular rhythm. Exposure to sunshine during the day solidifies your body’s circadian rhythms and can actually help you sleep better at night. After a period of sleeplessness, it is valuable to remind your body when it should and shouldn’t be awake.

3. Avoid Certain Food and Drink

Trash Bag by Door

The National Sleep Foundation – a U.S non-profit organization, identifies several food and drink that should be avoided, either while grieving in general, or at least before bed time. The NSF recommends the following:

  • Avoid fat foods before bed
  • Onions, chocolate and spicy foods
  • Reduce portion size at dinner time
  • Finish eating 2-3 hours before lying down
  • Sleep on your left side for better digestion
  • Avoid alcohol before bed

4. Limit Blue Light before Bed

Woman Holding Head

It is best to avoid using electronics such as the computer, television and mobile phone at least one hour before going to bed. This might be tricky for some lifestyles, but during times of grief, try to stick to this recommendation.

This is because the blue light emitted from electronics contributes to alertness and can negatively impact your restfulness. Sleeping in a dark room and limiting blue light exposure before bed can help your brain to relax.

5. Try-Out Calming Techniques

Person Meditating

You can play a role in your own relaxation by trying out some calming techniques. The well-known Relaxation Response is a great technique you can use whilst lying in bed, that physically calms the body and helps eliminate the negative sensations associated with stress. Learn more here.

Gentle, restorative yoga exercises 30 minutes before bed is great for relaxing the mind and body, and helps improves physical wellbeing long after grief. Insomnia after the loss of a loved one can greatly benefit from the practice of mindfulness and meditation as well. Click here for our Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation.

6. Create a Peaceful Sleep Space

Cat Sleeping on Table

Lastly, it can be very beneficial to create a peaceful sleep space that contains everything essential for a good night’s rest. These considerations are beneficial to everyone, not just the bereaved. Try to organize the following:

  • Black-out curtains for a very dark room.
  • Earplugs and eye mask for light sleepers.
  • No phones in the sleep space, for distraction-free sleep.
  • A well-ventilated room that is around 20 degrees Celsius.
  • A good quality mattress with comfortable pillows.
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