Sleep problems are a common response to grief. Lack of sleep (insomnia) saps your energy, makes it harder to function, and harder to cope. You need regular and refreshing sleep in order to recover from grief.
Bob Deits, M.Th, writings about sleep in his book, "Life After Loss." "There is no substitute for getting enough rest while dealing with grief," he says.
But a few sleepless nights can quickly turn into many. In her book, "How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies," author Therese A. Rando, Ph.d. notes that not getting enough sleep may cause mental and physical exhaustion and "contribute to your development disease, and predispose you to unresolved grief."
Mayo Clinic defines insomnia as problems with falling sleep, staying asleep, and having regular or frequent non -orative sleep. According to "Insomnia," an article on the clinic's Web site, the symptoms of insomnia include difficulty in falling asleep, waking up at night, waking up too early, daytime sleepiness and irritability.
I had all of these symptoms after four loved ones died within nine months. Stressful thoughts about my daughter's will, the probate process, guardianship of my twin grandchildren, clearing out my daughter's house, and putting it up for sale, kept me from falling asleep quickly. When I finally fell sleep I had disturbing dreams.
I dreamed about my daughter when she was a baby, a toddler, and a high school student. I dreamed I was drowning and trying to stay afloat. I dreamed my loved ones had not really died and that I was having bad dream. Crying often awakened me from sleep. My sleep was so interrupted I felt like I had not slept at all.
Would I ever get another good night's sleep? According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic insomnia may result from stress and the fear of being unable to sleep. While I did not have chronic insomnia, I had come close, so I took these proactive steps.
1. Fix lighter meals. Eating too much in the evening can make you feel uncomfortable and make it harder to sleep, according to Mayo Clinic. My husband and I had little interest in food so I fixed smaller and lighter meals.
2. Watch caffeine consumption. Caffeine can keep you awake. Soda pop often contains caffeine, but I rarely drink it. However, I like coffee and drink half-caf. After dinner I would have one cup of coffee or none.
3. Stay physically active. Although I had been on a walking program, losing four loved ones was such a shock I sat on the couch for weeks. I am more physically active now and sleep better.
4. Have a schedule. "Life After Loss" author Bob Deits thinks grieving people need to keep a calendar, have a schedule, eat on time, and plan their evening hours. My husband and I continued to eat at our regular time. After dinner I watched decorating shows or read mysteries.
5. Permission to cry. I gave myself permission to cry any time, any where, and I'm glad I did. Crying released built-up tension and made it easier to sleep at night.
Do not put up with insomnia. Taking a few proactive steps can help you get your Zs. See your doctor if insomnia persists.