Recovering from Grief: Tips for Overcoming Insomnia

Bereavement is a complex emotional condition, creating symptoms that can manifest themselves unexpectedly and in disruptive ways. Grief can make it difficult to concentrate, causing you to feel lost or as though you were in a fog. Grieving itself is a natural healing process, but it can lead to serious health problems like depression and anxiety or loss of appetite and an inability to sleep at night. A persistent insomnia resulting from grief, worry and guilt can become debilitating if not addressed.

It can be difficult, but one of the best ways to take control of the situation is to try and resume healthful practices, and that includes finding ways to get the sleep you need. Here are some strategies that are often helpful in overcoming insomnia.

Stick to a schedule

Establishing a regular sleep schedule gets your body accustomed to a healthy pattern of sleeping and waking, which makes it possible to resume a normal, rejuvenating REM sleep. The key is go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and that includes weekends and on holidays and vacation. If you’ve always been a napper, try napping for no more than 30 minutes so you don’t go into a deep sleep, which will make it harder to get the rest you need at night.

Avoid stimulants and sleep aids

Steer clear of caffeine and alcohol while you’re struggling with insomnia. Caffeine elevates your heart rate, while alcohol robs you of the deep, REM sleep that leaves you feeling rested and refreshed and protects the immune system and metabolic processes. It’s worth noting that you should be careful about taking an excessive amount of sleep aids, which can become addictive. Instead, ask your doctor about taking melatonin supplements, which promote sleep naturally.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

CBT is one of the best and most effective ways to overcome a sleep problem. It’s a form of therapy that teaches you to recognize negative thoughts and behaviors that lie at the root of your problem, then teaches you to replace them with healthy, positive responses to stimuli. Once the nature of the problem has been recognized, you can focus your energies on finding ways to redirect thoughts and actions into more positive channels. You can seek out this sort of therapy through a counselor. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.

Remaking your bedroom

If you shared a bedroom for with someone you’ve lost, continuing to sleep in the same bed can be distressing and can make it difficult to overcome insomnia. It may be necessary to redesign the bedroom by getting a new, more comfortable mattress, repainting the walls with soft, soothing colors, and putting up new window treatments. If there are personal reminders of your lost loved one that are hindering your sleep, there’s nothing wrong with tucking them away for awhile until you get your nights back on track.

It might even help to rent a short-term storage unit if your spouse’s belongings need attention but you’re not quite up to going through any of it. Freeing up space in this way will make it easier to adjust your sleep space, and storage can be an inexpensive and convenient way to put off what can be a very difficult task. For example, you can find an affordable 5’x5’ unit in Phoenix for just $24.50 at US Storage Centers at 5801 W. San Miguel Avenue in Glendale.

Electronic aids

Sometimes a fan turned on low all night can provide a soothing background noise, but it’s hardly a foolproof option. On the other hand, the Aura Connected Alarm Clock is a sleep-conducive gadget that doubles as a lamp which helps you get to sleep and wake up feeling good.

Grief is a powerful emotional force and it takes time to process such strong feelings. If grief causes persistent sleep problems, it’s important to employ self-care techniques to alleviate the problem because sleep is absolutely essential for good mental and physical health, and to help you in your healing.

Courtesy of