How to Cope with Insomnia Following the Loss of a Loved One

By Sara Bailey

Grieving the loss of someone you love is one of the most difficult journeys you will ever take. Sometimes, when you lie down to sleep, you feel the loss the deepest. Instead of tossing and turning, try these practical tips to help quiet your mind so you can rest.

Rest and Recuperate

 Sleeping serves an important purpose to your mind and body. It’s when you sleep that you undergo restorative processes, repairing muscle, building energy, and consolidating information. When you go without sufficient sleep, your physical and mental health can suffer in many ways. Your productivity can drop along with the ability to think clearly, moderate your moods, and perform tasks efficiently. Coordination can be hindered, as well as immune function and muscle tone. Even your complexion can be affected.

Comfortable Bedding

 Think about whether your mattress is comfortable for you. Depending on your normal sleep position, you might not have the right kind of bedding. For instance, certain kinds of mattresses are better choices for side sleepers than for those who sleep on their stomachs. It’s especially important if you’re struggling with back pain to find an appropriate mattress. A mattress suited to your sleep style will offer comfort and support. A poorly chosen mattress or one that is worn, however, is likely to contribute to your insomnia and back pain, and it might not keep your spine resting in an appropriate and comfortable position.

Sleep Environment

 A proper environment can help improve your ability to fall asleep, as well as your quality of sleep. NBC News explains that it’s important to ensure your bedroom is quiet and comfortable. Sound could be contributing to your insomnia, such as traffic or neighbors. If so, consider investing in earplugs or a white noise machine. Also, the hum of a humidifier can also be beneficial since dry air can mean reduced sleep quality. Check the lights from hallways or windows. Your bedroom should be dark, so installing light-blocking window coverings can help to improve your sleep quality. The room should also be dedicated solely to sleep. Make it a point to avoid turning your bedroom into a place for other tasks. If you have exercise equipment or a desk in there, move them to another area in your home.

Winding Down

 Quieting your mind and body before bed can be especially helpful when you’re grieving. MindBodyGreen suggests participating in a bedtime ritual to help you unwind — something along the lines of sipping an herbal tea, doing some gentle yoga, and journaling your thoughts and feelings can help get you into a proper mindset for slumber. Some experts note that spending time on electronic devices right before bedtime can impair your ability to sleep well. The blue light from tablets, computers, and smartphones mimics daylight and can make you feel more awake, so set them aside well before turning in. If you’re looking for some gadgets that help with sleep, consider investing in a smart alarm clock or a smart sleep mask. They monitor your slumber and provide feedback to help you make adjustments for better rest.

Enjoy Exercising

 You might be surprised to learn getting in a good workout can help you sleep better. Spending time doing vigorous exercise can help improve the quality and duration of your sleep. Physical activity can also lower your stress and anxiety levels and help reset your body rhythm into a healthy pattern. In fact, some studies indicate that insufficient exercise can contribute to sleeplessness. Be forewarned, though, that exercising late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep. Aim your workout for the morning or early afternoon.

The Importance of Socialization

Although this may not help defeat your insomnia, it’s important to remain social during this time. According to Health Central, keeping in contact with friends can prevent insomnia from transforming into depression. What’s more, for older adults, isolation can become a very huge health risk, and it can result in cognitive decline and self-loathing, among other serious problems. So, it’s important to try to remain as social as possible during this time, whether you’re hanging out with friends, volunteering, or joining a gym.

Getting through the nights after losing someone you love can be difficult. Adjust your habits and environment to help you get some rest. Restorative slumber is important to help you heal.


After losing her husband Greg, Sara Bailey created to support her fellow widows and widowers. She is also the author of the upcoming book Hope and Help After Loss: A Guide For Newly Widowed Parents.