At The Ralph Site we talk a lot about bereavement – how it feels and why it’s important not to let others judge you for how you react to the loss of your friend. One commonly experienced symptom of bereavement is the disruption of your normal sleeping pattern, and so this week we’re going to look at how this might manifest itself, and more importantly, what you can do to take matters back into your own hands.
Almost everyone will have problems sleeping at some point in their life – a period of stress at work, physical discomfort or worrying about loved ones can all play havoc with your eight hours a night. Usually the disruption is short-lived, but prolonged sleep problems can negatively affect your mood, energy level and productivity at work, as well as putting strain on relationships. Such sleep problems can be categorised as follows:
- Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the night or waking much earlier than usual
- Night terrors
- Sleep walking – aside from putting you in danger of physical harm, regular sleep walking will result in a reduction in the quality of sleep, so that you feel tired all the time.
Like most sleep problems, those resulting from feeling lost and low after the death of a pet will eventually lessen with time. However, there are some simple steps you can take to hasten this process, so that your sleep patterns return to something more like normal and you wake refreshed and ready to face the new day again:
- Establish a routine. Wherever possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day – this will help your body associate the time between with sleep. Only go to bed when you feel tired enough to sleep – this may be later than you’re used to but if it means you fall asleep quicker, your body will benefit from the same amount of sleep without your anxiety levels rising as you lay in bed early, watching the minutes tick by.
- Make your sleeping environment comfortable and quiet. Collect plenty of blankets and pillows in case you feel cold and remove any disturbing noises – ear plugs can help if you have a partner who snores, or you may wish to move to another room altogether! Blackout blinds will keep the room dark, or a nightlight will take the edge off the darkness if that bothers you.
- Relax before you go to bed. Tempting as it is to check your social media one last time,experts recommend switching off phones and tablets half an hour before retiring.
- Instead, why not choose a relaxing book – most people find that reading in bed soon makes them feel tired!
- Catch up on lost sleep in the day. Sometimes a power nap can be just the thing to revive flagging energy levels, but take care to make sure they don’t become a regular feature at set times – this will have a detrimental impact on the normal sleep routine you’re trying to establish.
- Pay attention to your diet and exercise regime. You might wish to avoid stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine in the evenings. Also, try not to eat and drink too much after 8pm as a full stomach can prevent you falling asleep, whilst a full bladder will prompt you to wake up in the early hours!
- Keep a sleep diary. Jotting down details about how you’re sleeping can identify patterns – perhaps you have problems sleeping after eating certain foods, or at particular times of the month.
- Try a herbal remedy. A few drops of lavender, valerian, passionflower or lemon balm on your pillow can help relax your body and mind into a restful sleep. Or add a few drops to the bathwater, followed by a long wallow with calming music and candlelight – that should do the trick!
Of course, prolonged sleep problems can sometimes have more deep-seated causes (for example, oversleeping can be linked with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease) – professional help may be useful in addressing and overcoming these if so. You can find lots more general advice on how to sleep better on the NHS Choices website.
Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team.
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support
Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.