Updated: Sep 12
Written by Tina Martin
The loss of a loved one and the terrible grief that follows can have several negative health impacts. People sometimes lose interest in food, lose too much weight, disregard personal hygiene, and have trouble getting to sleep. Grief-induced insomnia can be a serious health problem because lack of sleep affects your immune, nervous, and cardiovascular systems, as well as cognitive functioning. Grieving individuals may experience depression, guilt, anger, and a host of other emotions that create confusion and make it hard to relax. If a devastating emotional loss is affecting your sleep and health, consider the following tactics:
Turn to Your Faith
It’s difficult to process feelings and make sense of things when someone close to us dies. If you’re feeling desperate and don’t know where to go for help, try turning to prayer, reach out to fellow churchgoers, and draw on the wisdom of your faith leaders. Many religions teach that those who we lose are rewarded with eternal life, which can be a powerful source of emotional reassurance at a time of terrible suffering. Set aside time before bedtime each night for prayer and meditation, a time for contemplating your loss and remembering a loved one through prayer.
If, despite your best efforts, you’re unable to get enough sleep due to grief, discuss the problem with a doctor or seek counselling services. If you live in the US, Seniors should check their Medicare insurance to see if grief counselling is covered, and if you are in the UK, there are often many free counselling services you can access. Don’t ignore the situation because your physical well-being could be at risk as well as your mental and emotional state.
Support groups, which can be found through your church, are often quite helpful. If you’re more comfortable working through grief on your own, an online bereavement resource probably has a lot to offer.
Establish a Suitable Sleep Environment
Don’t underestimate the importance of a suitable sleep space, one that’s conducive to relaxation and restful sleep. Restrict your bedroom activities — don’t eat, use the laptop, or pay bills in your sleep space. This should be a room where you can wind down, not a place for busy activity. Don’t watch television or use social media while sitting or lying in bed — all screens and electronics should be turned off at least an hour before bedtime because the light from screens can throw off your sleep rhythms.
Lowering your body temperature can help facilitate sleep. Try to keep the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If you shared a bedroom with a lost loved one, do some rearranging that helps take your mind off your grief. Keep the bedroom free of clutter, which is a major source of stress. Avoid all forms of caffeine before bedtime and employ a sleep-enhancing gadget, like a white noise machine, which produces a relaxing sound.
Keeping a grief journal can help you make sense of your loss by maintaining a dialogue between yourself and God. Think of it as a form of prayer, an attempt to forge a link between your conscience and the spiritual and find comfort that’s so hard to achieve when you try to keep a stiff upper lip and ignore your grief. Make a point of expressing your deepest thoughts for half an hour every evening before bed. Keep a copy of the Bible, or passages you find especially comforting, close at hand on your bed stand.
The strength of your faith can be a tremendous asset when you’re bereaved and unable to sleep. If you just can’t find the help you need through your church, there are online programs that can walk you through the grief recovery process. And don’t underplay the importance of your physical comfort when you’re struggling to get seven to nine hours of restful sleep at night.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
Meet the author
Tina Martin stays busy as a life coach and works hard to help herself and her clients achieve a healthy work-life balance. She is also working on her first book, Ideaspired: Put Your Ideas, Your Inspiration, and Yourself First to Make Your Dreams Come True.
You can find Tina here.