Sadness, Sleep & Self-Care by Sara Bailey

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Some helpful advice for those who are left behind…

by Sara Bailey

I’m Sara, and I’m a widow. I write about loss as a way to help me heal and to offer hope to others who’ve suffered a loss. I want to help reduce the struggle that many widows and widowers face with some ideas that have helped me.

From personal experience, the most difficult thing to do after the loss of a loved one is just sleep. For me, it was a combination of being overtired (both physically and emotionally) and overwhelmed by the thought of sleeping in the bed I used to share with my husband.

But resting is a very necessary part of healing. So, in this article I write about how to get better sleep after losing a loved one. I offer advice on techniques to calm your body and mind and help promote restful sleep, how to redo your bedroom after your spouse passes, and/or gadgets that actually help versus gimmicks that probably won’t.

Sadness, Sleep, and Self-Care

The pain of losing a spouse or child is a burden to bear around the clock. But it is perhaps heaviest at night when the rest of the world is quiet and you’re left with nothing but your thoughts. Sleep disturbances are common during grief. Racing thoughts combined with poor self-care habits can leave your eyes wide open until it’s time to hit the snooze button.

Self-care after loss

The way you care for yourself changes after losing a loved one. You may have to learn to sleep alone our walk past an empty bedroom knowing that your own life will never be the same. But self-care is important for so many reasons. The way you eat, exercise, and interact with the world around you all affect your physical and mental health. When you don’t practice proper self-care techniques, your already-restless nights can become a long-term problem.

Here are a few tips on how to sleep during times of insurmountable sadness:

Set your internal clock

Your body operates on its own internal clock, known as your circadian rhythm. Keep it on track by going to bed and waking at the same time each day. Avoid the temptation to nap and instead opt to change your bedtime by 30 minutes if you are routinely fatigued during the day.

Improve sleep with exercise

When you’re suffering with grief, the last thing you probably want to do is get off the couch to exercise. But be prepared to grab the sweats and your running shoes because exercise is exactly what you need. Not only does exercise release chemicals that can make you feel good even on your darkest day, working out can increase the quality and duration of sleep. There is a clear link between lack of exercise and poor sleep quality, as noted in this post by Texas-based Factory Mattress.

Change things up

Sometimes, the comfort you get from the familiarity of your home contributes to your wakefulness. Your husband’s guitar hanging on the wall when he’s no longer there or your child’s toys in the corner when they’ve been taken too soon are both a blessing and a curse. Don’t get rid of the things that keep you connected to your lost loved one but consider changing things up so that your world looks different and your mind moves out of the past. Good Housekeeping offers numerous ideas on how to change your bedroom in a single weekend.

Avoid “awake” foods

Awake foods are anything that keep you up at night. For some, this may be heartburn-inducing citrus fruit while others may not be able to tolerate milk and dairy products. As a general rule, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and anything heavy and fatty as these are all known sleep interrupters. Opt instead for a handful of cherries or crunchy carrots to keep you full through the night.

Nighttime Netflix

When you’re trying to change your focus, television offers instant gratification. However, it’s easy to zone out until well past your bedtime. Avoid watching TV in the half hour before settling in for the night.

Monitor nighttime habits

Your sleep patterns have no doubt changed as has your life since loss. In order to regain control over the nights, you may find it helpful to monitor your sleep time activities. There are numerous gadgets, including sleep masks and trackers that can help you get a handle on your overnight activities. Just watch out for gimmicky options that will only separate you from your money.

Fighting through grief is one of the most difficult thing you’ll ever do. But if you want to have the strength to win the battle, you have to take care of yourself. And part of taking care of yourself is getting enough sleep and pursuing activities that promote a healthy slumber.

by Sara Bailey

To get in touch with Sara –

Keep an eye out for Sara’s forthcoming book ‘Hope and Help after Loss’ –


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