Patients Helping Patients Blog
How Grieving Impacts Sleep
For those suffering from cancer or experiencing a loved suffer from cancer, sleepless nights are most likely all too familiar. For those who have lost a loved one to their battle with cancer, we grieve with you and sympathize for you. Know you are not alone in your pain when memories of the past creep into your thoughts each night as you go to bed.
Dealing with grief is a distressing experience that is accompanied by intense physical and emotional symptoms. Some of which include: low energy, anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, and most commonly, insomnia.
Insomnia is a difficulty of falling and staying asleep. Oftentimes, insomnia is a result of stress and anxiety. In grief, thoughts of loss consume one’s mind making it hard to relax and fall asleep. Oftentimes, individuals who are grieving wake up from dreaming about a deceased loved one as their brain processes the grief. The danger that comes to those who are grieving is when so much sleep is lost one becomes sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation only intensifies the symptoms of grieving, making day-to-day life even more challenging to manage.
So What Can One Do?
1. Consider therapy
It’s often anxious thoughts and the devastation of loss that keeps someone dealing with grief up at night. However, therapy can help you process your anxieties and identify harmful thoughts to replace with healthier ones. Sometimes verbally processing our fears is the best line of defense we have against the anxieties that haunt us at night.
2. Maintain a sleep schedule
As hard as it may be to fall asleep, it’s important to try and keep a consistent bedtime each and every night. Keeping a steady schedule will help you get a more regular amount of sleep on a nightly basis. Do you best to avoid naps during the day as they make it harder to fall asleep at night.
Try exercise as a natural remedy to sleep. Physical activity releases endorphins which help improve mood and physical well-being. Additionally, working out helps physically tire your body so you can sleep better at night.
4. Create a wind down routine
At the end of the day, our brains don’t magically power down. Rather, they need to be primed for sleep (especially if racing thoughts keep you up at night). Draw yourself a hot bath, stash the screens, dim the lights, and pick up a book. This will help quiet and relax your mind for sleep.
5. Create a space conducive for sleep
Although you may little control over you ability to physically fall asleep, you do have control over your sleeping environment which has the biggest impact on sleep quality.
Start with your mattress—the performance tool to getting your best sleep. Perhaps you shared your bed with your deceased loved one. Those painful memories could keep you up a night. If that’s the case, it may be helpful to get a new bed altogether. Maybe it’s simply making the space as conducive for sleep as possible. Make sure your room is rid of light pollution and noise disruption. Neutral tones are psychologically proven to help us relax, so consider softening the palette of your bedroom.
6. Finally, keep realistic expectations
Last but not least, keep realistic expectations. When dealing with grief, it can take a bit of time for sleep to become normal again. The important thing is that you make an effort to protect your sleep. It will give you the strength you need to faced the day.
Lisa is a freelance writer from North Carolina that recently lost a dear family friend to their battle with cancer. Since the passing of her friend, she faced many sleepless nights but has found peace in writing and educating on the impact grieving has on our day to day lives.