Our Tip of the Week: It’s typical to experience disruptions in normal sleep patterns in the first few weeks and months of grief after a major loss. You may have trouble falling asleep, find yourself waking up throughout the night, or waking up very early, unable to fall back asleep. Loss of sleep makes us feel worse, impacting our mood, immune system and energy level. When we’re exhausted, it becomes more difficult to handle day-to-day tasks, which can feel impossible anyway when we’re coping with a loss. In the face of overwhelming grief, we need to do all we can to make sure we are taking proper care of ourselves. Making an effort to reestablish normal sleep patterns is a vital part of good self-care.
How-to Suggestion: There are a number of actions you can take to help ensure a good night’s sleep when you’re dealing with sleep disturbances:
1. Exercising during the day is immensely helpful. If you are able to exercise outdoors (walking, hiking, biking), the exposure to natural light will also help promote a healthy sleep cycle.
2. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol after 3 p.m. Although alcohol can act as a sleep aid initially, overall it is disruptive to sleep, particularly during the second half of the night, according to researcher Irshaad Ebrahim. It prevents your body from reaching deep, REM sleep.
3. Therapeutic body work such as massage, reiki or acupuncture can help you relax and restore balance to your system, which will help you sleep better.
4. Lavender essential oil helps alleviate anxiety and sleep disturbances. Try putting a few drops on a cotton ball and holding it under your nose. Slowly count to ten while you inhale, and count to ten as you exhale. Repeat this five times.
5. Sipping herbal tea to establish a bedtime ritual can cue your body to slow down and prepare for sleep.