The Effects of Grief on your Sleep by Tuck

11/11/2018, 00:00:00

The Effects of Grief on Sleep by Tuck

Grief is a universal constant of the human experience. At one point or another, everyone experiences the loss of a loved one – grandparent, parent, sibling, friend, or child. Though grief is a natural part of life, it can take a heavy toll on the mind and body, in particular, when it comes to sleep.

Sleep is a necessary biological function that none of us can do without. Most adults need a solid seven to nine hours for the body to function at its best. While you sleep the body heals, rejuvenates, and recharges itself from daily stress.

Grief can easily stand in the way of a good night’s rest for days, weeks, months, or even years. Loss of any kind can cause distressing thoughts to repeat through the mind, especially at night when there aren’t distractions. These thoughts can not only keep you awake they can also contribute to the development of anxiety, depression, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which further contribute to sleep loss.

Without enough sleep, the brain changes how it functions. The amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions, becomes oversensitive to negative thoughts, feelings, and events. This heightened activity in the amygdala is accompanied by reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex influences your ability to focus, concentrate, reason, and use logical thinking. Without its full influence, the stress and emotions associated with sleep deprivation can magnify and prolong the effects of grief.

Tips for Better Sleep While Grieving

Though it may not feel like it, you can improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest through sleep supportive behaviors.

  1. Develop a Soothing Bedtime Routine

When you're in a state of grief, a bedtime routine provides time to relieve stress and calm the mind before bed. It also helps the brain correctly time the release of sleep hormones. You may want to include:

  • Meditation: Mindfulness meditation trains the mind to focus on the present moment rather than past or future events. Over time, regularly practicing meditation can strengthen the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala so that logic and reasoning have more control over your emotions.
  • Yoga: Yoga has been shown to improve moods while reducing fatigue and inflammation.
  • A Warm Bath: The heat of warm water causes muscles to relax while artificially raising your body temperature. The rapid drop in body temperature that follows can trigger the start of the sleep cycle.

2. Create a Bedroom Retreat

The bedroom should be kept cool, dark, and quiet to eliminate distractions and support a lower body temperature. You can get extra comfortable with a weighted blanket, electric blanket, or a table fan if necessary.

3. Turn Off and Remove Electronics from the Bedroom

Some electronic devices like televisions, smartphones, and laptops emit a blue spectrum light that can suppress sleep hormones. Removing or turning off these devices two to three hours before bed can help you stay on track for a reasonable bedtime. If you absolutely need to use a device, check to see if it has a night mode or night shift mode, which changes the light spectrum from blue to orange or red so that it doesn't interfere with your sleep.

The grieving process takes time. There are no guarantees that you’ll move through your grieving process faster with better sleep, but you’ll be better able to maintain your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.



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