Sleeping while grieving the loss of a loved one
By Lisa Smalls
Lisa is a freelance writer from North Carolina that received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. After experiencing the loss of a dear family friend, educating others on processing grief became a lifelong passion that inspired her writing. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys spending time with her sister and teaching cycle at a local gym.
Two years ago my mom lost her best friend, Lori, to cancer. Lori was like an aunt to me and the first person close to me that I had ever lost. Death has a way of shaking you. There wasn’t a night that went by where I didn’t think of Lori when my head hit the pillow. But, the hardest part, was seeing the toll that her passing took on my mom. Her anxiety caused by Lori’s loss kept her from sleeping much at all, and this sleep deprivation worsened her grieving. It made me question how to take care of yourself, and your sleep, when grieving the loss of a loved one.
The way each person handles the loss of a loved one is unique to that individual. Grief is a natural response to losing someone close to you, and everyone grieves differently. For some, sleep disturbance is common during the grieving process. Nights of restlessness—tossing and turning with eyes wide awake—can even lead to insomnia. Sleep deprivation can make the grieving process even more difficult, because when you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t yourself. Sleep is essential to our emotional, physical, and psychological well-being, affecting your:
- Cognitive judgement
- Stress levels
- Immune system
- And more
It is important to understand the many benefits of sleep, to help you be mindful of the ways sleep deprivation affects your whole health. If you’re at a loss for where to start that process, here are some ways you can work to improve your sleep environment in an effort to restore your “z’s”:
Room temperature. Ensure the room where you sleep is kept between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit, and is well-ventilated. Your body needs to cool down in order to fall asleep. So, keep your head above the covers at this cooler temperature and it should help you fall asleep.
Bed. Investing in a mattress and bedding that’s tailored to fit your unique sleeping needs is absolutely imperative. Make sure your mattress, sheets, and bedding are right for you.
Bedroom. You want your brain and your body to associate your bedroom with sleep, and non-stress related activities—declutter, close the drapes, and turn off the technology.
These changes to my sleep environment helped me get a better night’s sleep while grieving the loss of my loved one. I found grieving to be exhausting in its own right, exacerbated by sleep deprivation. So much so, that when I found ways to restore my sleep cycle, I wanted to share these insights in an effort to help others.
Remember to be patient with yourself, especially while grieving. Being mindful that what works for you one day, may change, as you cycle through the ebb and tide of the grieving process. But, please, don’t give up—keep trying, your sleep is worth it. You are worth it.
If you are in a crisis, dial 2-1-1, in Connecticut. If you are outside of Connecticut and need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “HOME” to 741741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.