Sara reached out to me wanting to write a post on learning to sleep again after losing a spouse. While it may not be directly related to motherhood, it defiantly can be, if you are newly widowed and also a parent. And even if you aren't a parent, I think Sara's tips can benefit anyone trying to put their pieces back together after losing partner. Sara is also the author of the upcoming book Hope and Help After Loss: A Guide For Newly Widowed Parents. I hope these tips can prove helpful to those who have lost a loved one and thank you Sara for sharing.
Learning to Sleep Again After Losing a Spouse
After we lose a spouse, we often suffer not only from grief, but from loss of sleep. This can be
because we have too much anxiety, are not used to sleeping without them, and many other
reasons. Whatever the cause, thankfully there are ways we can help ourselves find new
strategies to sleep again.
Relaxing After Loss
It can be difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, to relax and sleep in the same room where our
loved one once slept. We can experience negative thoughts and feelings of helplessness,
especially in these shared spaces. Because of this, we need to learn how to take care of
ourselves and let go of stress, especially at night. If you need immediate assistance relaxing, try
deep breathing. As you breathe out, intentionally let go of any tension you’re holding in your
body. Common areas of tension are the shoulders, neck, and jaw. Focus on one of these areas,
and completely relax it as you breathe out. As you breathe in deeply again, pick another section
and relax it as you breathe out. Repeat this until you feel relaxed enough to drift off. This can
become a healthy habit you go to when you feel particularly overwhelmed.
Work Out to Get Tired
Exercise is good for more than just keeping our bodies healthy. It can help us tire ourselves out
and rest well each night. Working out can put our bodies into a deep sleep, one we are less
likely to wake from. As well, it can help us process day-to-day stress, which in turn, helps us to
relax at night. In fact, not exercising can actually lead to poor sleep or insomnia. Find some form
of physical activity that works for you and helps you let go of stress. It could be going for a run
first thing after your cup of coffee, taking a stroll with your dog in the early afternoon, or even
going to an exercise class at your gym. Just ensure it fuels you and helps you feel better
physically. However, be cautious about working out too close to bedtime. You may find this
ends up making it more difficult to unwind.
Eat for Sleep
What you eat, and when you eat it, can greatly affect how well you sleep at night. Most of us
know to avoid caffeine late in the afternoon, but you should also steer clear of sugar and foods
high in fat. Sugar is a stimulant, which can keep us awake, and fat is slow to digest, which can
lead to turbulent sleeping. Instead, opt for light proteins, like unsweetened yogurt or one serving
of nuts. Almonds and walnuts, in particular, are a healthy nighttime snack to encourage sleep;
they contain phosphorus, melatonin, and manganese—all of which help us feel sleepy.
Tryptophan-laden foods also promote sleep, so eat a few ounces of turkey as a snack before
Redo the Bedroom
Redoing the bedroom, or choosing a new sleep space entirely, can help transform our rest
cycles. The first step might be getting a new mattress, one that is perfect for your sleep position
and age. If you have bad joints or back issues, something firm and supportive will be best.
Rather than investing in gimmicky apps or electronics to help you sleep, get back to the basics.
Thick curtains can keep your bedroom dark, which will help you stay asleep. A fan could keep
temperatures down, which can not only help you fall asleep, but also provide relaxing
background noise to keep you from being woken by sound. Make sure your bed is
comfortable—not just the mattress, but the pillows and sheets, too. The transformation of your
bedroom, or even converting a different room into your bedroom, may give you some peace of
mind. Sleep is necessary, and investing in yourself is self-care.
Sleep may not be the same after you lose a loved one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relearn
good sleep practices. While it may take time, it is possible to feel well-rested again. Be patient
with yourself, and do what you can to sleep well at night.
Image Courtesy of Pexels
After losing her husband Greg, Sara Bailey created TheWidow.net to support her fellow widows and widowers. She is also the author of the upcoming book Hope and Help After Loss: A Guide For Newly Widowed Parents.
A collection of posts from different humans all over the world, sharing their stories about the struggles they have faced in their individual journeys to motherhood.