Sleeplessness and Grief

Photo of a yawn.

I was reading Marty Tousley’s article on Coping with Sleepless in Grief today.

It’s a good list of tips, and I would agree that getting enough sleep is important. We’re much less able to cope well with our grief when we’re down to the bone exhausted.

Unfortunately sleeplessness is an incredibly common experience for those who are grieving especially in the first few weeks and months following a death.

Immediately following a death, our minds are going over and over and over every detail of the illness, accident, death, funeral and post-funeral experiences. It’s how we come to terms, make meaning and find the capacity to eventually move on.

Often, too, we manage to stay busy during the day only to find thoughts flooding back at the end of the day when we try to sleep.

Though the tips shared are good, they are all designed to do battle with the demon of sleeplessness. In my experience engaging in that kind of battle is often counterproductive. It just gives too much power to the sleeplessness.

So I’d like to offer some additional tips…

Additional tips for dealing with sleeplessness when you’re grieving.

1. Accept that you’re having trouble sleeping.

So often we get incredibly anxious when we can’t sleep. We know we need it and the more trouble we have falling asleep the more agitated we get which just makes it harder to fall asleep…and around and around we go.

This is often how long standing patterns of insomnia begin so don’t go there.

Cultivating an attitude of acceptance will probably get you to sleep a whole lot faster.

2. Rest is the next best thing to sleep.

Even if you’re not actually sleeping, you can rest with your eyes closed. Sometimes you might even fall asleep for a few hours but even if you don’t, the rest will help.

3. Get up and do something.

Do some niggling little task that doesn’t take much time and then go back to bed.

Breaking the cycle of tossing and turning diminishes the anxiety and will improve your chances of falling asleep when you return to bed. If it doesn’t, either get up again or go back to resting.

4. Get up and write.

Do a brain dump of all the thoughts spinning around in your head. Yes, they may be back tomorrow but getting them down tonight can give you that much needed window to fall asleep.

5. This bears repeating…accept your sleeplessness.

Stop worrying about it. For most sleep does return as we move through the grieving process and begin to think more about the person rather than how they died.


Photo Credit: intuitives

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