It is common for people who are grieving a close loved one to experience sleep issues. While it may not seem like such a big deal, sleep deprivation can have a troubling effect on a person’s mental health. Sleep and mental health are intrinsically related — one can affect the other and vice versa. Because of this, it’s pretty easy to get stuck in an unhealthy loop of negative feelings and sleep loss. You feel bad one day and can’t sleep, and that just makes you feel worse the next day — and then makes it harder to fall asleep yet again.
Grief isn’t just emotional; it can also manifest physiologically. Common physical responses to a major loss include digestive problems, queasiness, nausea, changes in appetite, muscle aches and pains, a shortness of breath, feeling of emptiness in your stomach, tightness in the throat or chest, headaches, heart palpitations, sensitivity to noise, and even increased allergy symptoms. That’s a lot for the body to go through — it needs its rest. To help fight sleep deprivation after the loss of a loved one, it may help to make changes to your bedtime routine and environment.
A Cozy Bedroom
Your bedroom needs to be tailored to act as a haven for your rest. No more televisions, computers, or tablets while you’re between the sheets. Work should be for the office, the bedroom is for sleep. Make sure the air is comfortable and is conducive to clean breathing by adding a humidifier. A humidifier soothes skin and nasal passages, so you’re less likely to suffer from nighttime allergies that disrupt your sleep. Reduce light pollution in the bedroom with blackout curtains and consider investing in a dawn-simulating alarm clock that uses your body’s reaction to light to help you fall asleep and wake up more comfortably. Out of all the gadgets for better sleep, these sunrise/sunset clocks have the most research to back up their claims.
Say No to Java and Nightcaps
If you’re having trouble sleeping, it makes sense to avoid caffeinated beverages, including coffee, soda, and tea. Even a small amount of caffeine can prevent you from feeling sleepy at night. In addition to foregoing the java, it’s also important to skip the nightcap. While alcohol may make you feel drowsy for a bit, the depressant interferes with the body’s natural internal clock, disrupting multiple symptoms, including liver function, digestion, and — you guessed it — the natural sleep-wake cycle.
Avoid Certain Foods
Furthermore, there are certain foods that you’ll want to skip before bedtime. Anything that has a high-fat content — think bacon cheeseburgers, pizza, and ice cream — triggers the production of acids in the stomach, which can lead to discomfort from indigestion and heartburn. You’ll also want to pass on those extra spicy chicken wings. Proteins like chicken take a lot of energy to digest, and all that effort your body goes through digesting can throw off your sleep pattern. Furthermore, eating spicy foods can raise body temperature and blood flow. That’s great if you’re trying to get fired up, but night is the time for winding down.
It’s also a good idea to avoid sugary sweets and high-carb pastas that spike blood sugar before putting your body’s fat storage system to work all through the night. Even healthy foods have their downsides. For instance, celery is a natural diuretic, and eating it before bed increases your chances of waking up in the middle of the night needing to use the restroom. All in all, it’s best to avoid late-night snacking unless your hunger is the thing keeping you up. In that case, try bedtime snacks containing sleep-inducing nutrients such as tryptophan and magnesium.
Sleep issues during grief are common, but it’s important to prioritize sleep for your mental health. A great way to make it easier to sleep is to redo your bedroom so it is a haven for rest. Stop drinking caffeine after noon and say no the nightcap if you want to sleep through the night undisturbed. Finally, while it’s important to nourish yourself during this difficult time, there are some foods that can make it harder to fall asleep. Avoid junk food and spicy items and nosh on healthy whole foods that induce sleep instead.
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz