1 am… 2 am…. 3am…. Still wide awake? Tossing and turning? It is not uncommon for people to have trouble sleeping when they are experiencing grief. The added responsibilities and loss can feel overwhelming. The darkness of night adds extra stress and can keep your mind racing. Your body is exhausted but there you lay – wide awake staring at the ceiling. There are some things that can help if you experience this extra stress.
- Keep on the same sleep cycle. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at approximately the same time.
- Don’t force sleep. If you can’t fall asleep, get up and do something peaceful.
- Take a warm bath or drink warm milk before bed.
- Exercise daily but NOT close to bedtime. Try going for a short walk every day – getting fresh air refreshes you and aids sleep later.
- Avoid soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and Anacin which contain caffeine, especially in the evening. Drink plenty of water and keep well hydrated.
- Don’t watch television in bed.
- Sleeping pills, alcohol, and cigarettes may cause insomnia. Sleeping pills and alcohol may aid us to go to sleep, but as soon as they wear off we wake up. Over time we need more.
- Try not to spend daytime hours in your bedroom. Reserve that room for sleeping only. Do not nap during the day.
- Avoid heavy meals before retiring.
- The hum of an air conditioner or fan that produces monotone noises may induce sleep.
- Watch the temperature and humidity of the room. Overheating and excessive dryness interferes with sleep.
- Use ear plugs.
- Curl up in bed with a pillow. It may aid sleep like when you were young.
- Put a cold washcloth on your forehead. It will decrease circulation and stop your mind from racing.
- Don’t watch the news before going to bed.
- Make a list early in the day of things that need to be done so you can then let go of them at night and not dwell on them.
- If problems and anxiety are causing you sleeplessness, talk with a friend or consider counseling.
- Widowed people suggest sleeping in a different room or sleeping on your spouses’ side of the bed so your side is empty.
- Repeat prayers or repeat “Jesus loves me” as you do deep breathing. As you breathe in think “Jesus” and as you breathe out think “Loves me.” Repeat thinking “Jesus – cares for me.”
- Listen to calming music before bed.
- Pray; mediate before bed so your mind is calm and at peace.
- “I will lie down and sleep in peace for You alone O Lord, makes me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
- “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
Remember, many bereaved people have difficulty sleeping. Concentrate on the sleep that you do get. Often we sleep more than we realize.
 From Schmidt, Phyllis, “Understanding Grief and Loss”, HealthEast Hospice.
Further Resource Reading:
“Experience Grief” by H. Norman Wright
“A Decembered Grief – Living with Loss while Others are Celebrating” by Harold Smith