Grief affects people in many ways. Deep sorrow, listlessness, loss of focus, and manic behavior are all symptoms that a bereaved person may exhibit. Loss of sleep is another symptom and one of the most physically damaging aspects of bereavement. Getting 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep a night not only maintains good mental and physical health, it’s also an important factor in the grieving process. Grief is a necessary process, but allowing it to take control of your life is unhealthy and makes it difficult to emerge from bereavement whole and renewed. Consider the following tips if you’re struggling to get to sleep after the loss of a loved one.

Sleep routine

Sleep is a matter of getting your body used to a normal rhythm of sleeping and waking. Try setting a schedule, making sure you get to sleep and wake up at the same time, Sunday to Sunday, without fail to get yourself accustomed to a set sleep schedule. Cut out napping during the day so you’re able to achieve deep, restful sleep at night, and create a totally quiet and dark environment with no screens left on at night.

Rearrange your sleep space

There are probably objects in the bedroom that remind you of your departed loved one. Consider putting them away, at least for awhile, until you’re back to a normal sleep routine. Redecorate by repainting with soothing colors and removing anything that constitutes clutter, which distracts your mind from the task at hand. Try incorporating a gadget that helps induce sleep, like a smart light, which imitates the sunset and slowly dims, helping you fall asleep gradually. A humidifier can also help by moisturizing dry, stagnant air – which is especially helpful in arid climates – and creating a soft, steady and relaxing sound (make sure to replace the filters on a regular basis).

Don’t self-medicate

People who struggle getting to sleep at night are sometimes tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or sleep aids, which can undermine your ability to get the deep REM sleep you need. Using drugs and alcohol to induce sleep can create a chemical dependency that only worsens your problem. Ask your physician about natural sleep supplements, like melatonin, or try cognitive behavioral therapy, a regimen that helps you recognize behavioral and thought patterns that foster insomnia and replace them with healthier personal habits.

Eat healthy

The food you eat has a lot to do with how you feel and how well your body is able to maintain healthy natural processes, like sleep. Grief can make it very tempting to indulge in “comfort food,” which means adding weight at a time when your body is trying to recover its balance. Indulging in fatty or sugary foods can disrupt sleep patterns. Instead, emphasize foods that are conducive to sleep, like milk, eggs, cheese, fish, rice, fruit and vegetables. You’ll feel better during the day and sleep better at night. If you’re a coffee drinker, consider switching to decaf, at least until your sleep problem is under control, or eliminate caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening.

Work out

The more you can do to make yourself physically tired, the better off you’ll be at bedtime, so make a point of getting at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. Physical activity activates endorphins in the brain, which make you feel good physically and mentally, and makes you feel sleepier at night. Avoid working out at night, which will elevate your heart rate and make it harder to fall asleep.

Grief can be emotionally debilitating and take time to overcome, but it shouldn’t undermine your health. Sleep may be hard to come by for a while, but if the problem persists, it may be necessary to seek the advice of your doctor or the help of a counselor.

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