Grief And Insomnia

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Grief can majorly impact your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, especially after losing a loved one. One way this can manifest is through insomnia. Insomnia is defined by persistent issues with falling and/or staying asleep. Disruptions in sleep patterns can be a common grief response, but grief-related insomnia can be even more severe. Long-term sleep deprivation can severely impact your quality of life and can prolong the duration of your grief period. Below, we will discuss how grief insomnia can affect you, and ways to combat it. 

Why Can Grief Affect Sleep?

Sleep loss or changes in sleep patterns are common symptoms of grief. There are many ways in which grief can affect your sleep patterns. These can include:

  • Loneliness
  • Stress
  • Worrying
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Biological responses to grief
  • Nightmares
  • Coping mechanisms (alcohol, caffeine, media-related distractions, etc.)

While these are not the only causes, they are often cited by grief patients or their counselors. Stressors and the way the body reacts to grief can prevent you from falling asleep, or staying asleep. 

Stages of Sleep

There are 4 stages of sleep. When your sleep is disrupted, or you don’t get a full night’s rest, you won’t get the full benefits of sleep. This can affect your energy levels, mood, memory, and more. 
The stages of sleep are referred to as NREM 1,2, & 3, and then REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. NREM 1 occurs as the body transitions from wakefulness to sleep. It can last about 10 minutes. During stage one, the brain slows down function, and your body’s heartbeat and breathing rate slow as well. During stage two, your body temperature drops, and your breathing becomes more regular. Your body is preparing for the deepest part of sleep, known as NREM 3.
In NREM 3, delta brain waves begin to occur. This deep sleep may require significant stimuli to wake someone. During NREM 3, your body completely relaxes, and your blood pressure drops. This is the time of sleep when your body is most actively repairing itself. Additionally, stage 3 also helps your brain consolidate and sort memories and ideas.
REM sleep is the last stage and occurs roughly 90 minutes after you fall asleep. In REM sleep, the brain is very active, and your eyes move rapidly. Your breathing can be faster and more irregular. This stage is where dreams occur. Dreams can help you regulate memories and emotions. Additionally, memories are stored and processed during REM sleep. This helps cement knowledge into your memory. When you lose out on sleep, you are mostly taking away from this stage in the cycle.

Ways to Cope with Grief Insomnia

Many ways that can fight insomnia can also combat feelings of grief. Below, we will discuss some strategies to help you achieve more sleep and work through your grief.

Maintain a Sleep Schedule

First, try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. This can help your body get ready for sleep more easily. 

Exercising

Next, try to move more during the day. Regular exercise, even just a walk around the block, can help with sleeping. Exercising can also help improve mood and combat grief. While it may seem hard to get going while feeling the effects of grief, getting out and moving can help a lot. Consider doing yoga, tai chi, or other light exercises to get started.

Turn Off Your Brain

Sometimes, you can’t sleep because your mind is racing with thoughts. Consider using relaxation techniques to assist with winding down your mind. This can include meditation, aromatherapy, soundscapes, and more.  

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption

Both caffeine and alcohol can affect sleep patterns negatively, especially when ingested later at night. Do not consume alcohol within 4 hours before bedtime. While caffeine can help you fight off tiredness, it is not a replacement for a good night’s rest. Try not to consume caffeine after 3 PM. Drinking more water throughout the day can also help you maintain energy levels.

Avoid Blue Light

Blue light from screens can make it harder to go to sleep. Avoid using your electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light can throw off your circadian rhythm by simulating daylight. Be sure that your room is dark enough for you to sleep.

Seek Out Grief Support

If your grief is causing insomnia, working through your grief can be a good way to remedy it. If you can talk with a close loved one about your grief. You can also look for a professional grief counselor or therapist for assistance. Grief management groups may also be a helpful avenue for you as well. 

 

The author of this post is not a professional therapist or counselor. For assistance in finding a grief counselor that is right for you, there are several resources out there. For our Grief Resource Center, written by Dr. Bill Webster, click here
For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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