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What is one of the worst manifestations of grief? Not getting enough sleep.
Sleep has been one elusive you-know-what. Some nights it’s like old times, full night’s rest and energy the next day. But more often than not, I struggle with any number of sleep issues. It’s not full blown sleeplessness or insomnia, just consistent struggles with falling and staying asleep. You can read more about my sleep battles here.
I have worked diligently, listening to my body, trying to figure out how to get more sleep. I have also worked with my therapist on calming techniques that help me get relaxed before bed. The endeavor is starting to work, although I still have rough nights sometimes.
I have included ten mostly natural ways that have helped me get more sleep. Give them a try and maybe you’ll start getting a few more Zzz’s tonight, too.
10 Practical Approaches to Getting More Sleep Tonight
As much as you are able, sleep when you can. Utilize naps as much as possible. If you have an hour long lunch break, try a fifteen minute nap. On the weekends, or when your kids are napping, try laying down to sleep as well. Just make sure you set an alarm so that you don’t sleep too much. You definitely don’t want to go more than an hour and a half or two hours at most. And try not to nap too close to bedtime, that’s counterproductive to sleep at night.
Try a soothing yoga routine before bed. Don’t go for anything cardio or fast-paced. You want to wind down and be in a good head space for sleep. You can check Amazon Prime Video for free yoga routines that are included with the price of Prime. For the record, I love Prime. You can sign up for your own account here! I found this amazing one for mental health and sleep called Gentle Yoga for Anxiety, Sleep & Mood. It’s included with Prime and has definitely been helping me to calm down and be more ready for sleep each night.
3. Nighttime Beverage
Drink a sleep inducing beverage. My favorite is a chamomile or herbal tea. There are plenty of teas that claim to promote sleep. Hot chocolate or warm milk are other options. Anything that soothes you and relaxes you for bedtime. My new favorite that I have been using when I can’t sleep is Bigelow Benefits Sleep Chamomile & Lavender Tea. It really does soothe me and I usually go right back to sleep after I’ve finished the mug and gotten back in bed. It’s worth trying a couple of different things to see what works best for you. One word of advice though, don’t try anything peppermint as it tends to be a natural stimulant and have the opposite effect.
4. Weighted Blanket
Try sleeping with a weighted blanket. It may sound a little counter-intuitive if you have anxiety but hear me out. There is a lot of science out there to support how weighted blankets can help with sleep and anxiety. They are soothing and work on touch receptors. That’s why weighted blankets and vests have been used for years with children who have stimulation and sensory issues. I love a good blanket, but these things are so soothing and fantastic! They’re a little on the pricey side, but a worthwhile investment, especially if you struggle with anxiety as well. Here is my favorite, Weighting Comforts Quilted Blanket. They also have a CoolMax version for people who tend to get hot during the night.
5. Guided Imagery
Using guided imagery takes a little focus and practice. It’s kinda like a directed daydreaming that shifts your mental memories to a picture that gives you peace. As part of therapy, I learned to change some mental images that gave me great pain. I changed them to pictures of my favorite and the best times with Christian. It allowed me to think back to some of the last memories of him without as much pain. I continue to use these when I need a mental reprieve from the painful moments. There are quite a few books and other resources on guided imagery if you’re interested in deepening your understanding.
I had previously heard of tapping for anxiety relief but had never taken the time to look into it. My therapist sent me some beginning videos on Youtube to look at different routines. When I started tapping it didn’t seem to have much effect. But as I continued the practice I began to find it calming. After using the videos, I started reading and researching more about it as a strategy to help control my anxiety as well. One of the resources I found most helpful is this, The Tapping Solution.
Melatonin is a natural sleep aid. It’s a natural hormone found in the body that helps in inducing sleep. You can get it over the counter in the form of pills, cream, and gummies. I’ve taken it many times over the years. The best part is that it’s non-habit forming unlike some other OTC sleeping pills. This is one I recommend, Natrol Melatonin Sleep. And I would definitely recommend trying Melatonin before moving on to any other heavy duty or prescription medication.
8. Anxiety Medicine
If you’re grieving and have dealt with a traumatic loss, your doctor might be right to prescribe some anxiety meds. My OBGyn offered them to me after Christian’s birth and I didn’t immediately take it very seriously, though I had the prescription filled. I talked with Christian’s neonatal doctor and NICU nurse to make sure it wouldn’t be a problem with pumping and they assured me it was fine. In fact his doctor recommended taking it about 45 minutes before bedtime on nights when I really needed a good night sleep.
It wasn’t until after his death that I found myself in need of them. Sometimes when I’d barely slept the night before I took one and I would sleep really well. The biggest downside, though, is that I’ll sleep anywhere from eight to ten hours. Definitely not the most convenient when you have obligations the next day. Obviously it’s not recommended as a long term solution. Really, I just use it as a last resort. Although I’m loathe to recommend prescription meds, I’m being honest with what has worked for me during this journey. Grief is a serious odyssey and can be debilitating, so sometimes it’s worth doing what works until you can survive without it.
9. Soothing Sounds
Some nights, nothing seems to work and I don’t feel like getting out of bed and roaming the house. So I use a little bit of white noise. I have a sleep app on my phone that has a lullaby setting. My favorite calming noise of all is a thunderstorm. It works probably 80% of the time, eventually lulling me to sleep. If you don’t have an app with that type of setting, try this White Noise Sound Machine that has six different sounds and can be plugged in or uses batteries. It also has my fave, the thunderstorm!
10. Eye Movement Exercises
Another calming strategy my therapist has worked with me on is eye movement. In self-directed practice, you find two objects or points of reference across the room from each other (think one point on each opposite wall) and move your eyes rapidly from point to point. Don’t try to think of anything and don’t move your head back and forth. Just move your eyes back and forth and breathe. It can really strip your mind of any thoughts, allowing you to calm and relax. I don’t do it often, but it does actually work. It just takes a little practice. However, I wouldn’t try this technique if you’re easily disoriented or prone to motion sickness.