You may have noticed since your loss that complete rest is hard to come by. Fatigue and exhaustion are very common physical side effects of grief, yet in a terrible twist, another very common issue is difficulty sleeping. So you’re mentally and physically exhausted, but can’t sleep. Great.
This means that in the daytime you’re left with not only the emotional burden of grief, but the weight of tiredness on top of it. It can absolutely feel like a losing battle. Often people will turn to short-term use of sleep medications to just get some rest, and that is perfectly fine. (Seriously, there is no shame in talking to your doctor to see if he or she can help you get some sleep.)
But if you’re looking for some ways to fall asleep without a visit to the pharmacy here are a few options to consider:
Silence or otherwise turn off electronics one hour before bed. “Careful studies have shown that even our small electronic devices emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness,” which means “winding down” by scrolling through Facebook is actually keeping you up later.
Form a Routine
Develop a routine for the 30 minutes before your head hits the pillow. Creating a pattern of behavior leading up to bedtime lets your brain and body know in a consistent way that it’s almost time to go to sleep. Put on your pajamas, drink some herbal tea, brush and floss your teeth, moisturize your hand and face, read a book, whatever you want to do. Just try to do it in the same order again and again each night.
Most of us don’t go to bed at sunset like our ancestors did thanks to easily accessible artificial light. Light from your clock, from the hallway, from the street, from phone notifications, can all disrupt our natural sleep patterns. Try to get your sleep space as dark as possible. If that’s not an option, consider a sleep mask, they are excellent at cutting out visual distractions and encouraging you to keep your eyes closed.
Things go bump in the night and it’s not hard to get distracted by them. Fans are an easy and effective way to drown-out nighttime noise disruptions. If you don’t want to add a cool breeze to your bedroom, you can try one of the sleep sound machines available for sale in stores or online. Or you can use your smartphone as a sleep machine by downloading one of the many sleep machine apps (just make sure you try to use your phone only to turn on your sleep machine app, then quickly put the lit screen back to sleep).
The scientific jury is out on a lot of herbals, but the long-standing theory is that lavender and chamomile help with sleep and relaxation. For these herbals, it really can’t hurt to try. Whether it’s the tea-making ritual, the warming effect drinking hot liquid or the chamomile itself, making a bit of chamomile tea can be a soothing way to relax into your nighttime routine. You can also incorporate turning on a diffuser with lavender oil or use a lavender linen spray to create a consistent, relaxing bedtime scent.
Your body needs sleep, so if these don’t work for you, consider talking to your doctor about other behavioral, herbal, or pharmaceutical options that could help you get the rest you need.
This isn’t everything. Comment with a sleep trick or tool that’s worked for you. (It might be just the thing somebody else need to hear about.)