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Trying to rest and sleep when dawn

How can we get much-needed rest and sleep when mourning the death of a loved one? The shock of death puts our physiology into overdrive. Our normal routines have changed. We stay up late, eat little or nothing, and often have to deal with a variety of emotions, especially depression.

All of the above is part of a vicious cycle that leads to more anxiety, less sleep, and more fatigue. Commonly, the immune system is compromised and the sufferer suffers from colds, headaches and digestive disorders. And most importantly, energy levels drop at a time when they are sorely needed. Here’s an approach to getting the rest and sleep you need that can make headway in the fatigue cycle.

1. Plan a daily rest period of at least thirty minutes. Convince yourself first that you are doing the right thing and that you are in no way diminishing your commitment to your loved one. This is an essential part of your grievance job. Find a quiet place to lie down. Place a small pillow under your feet to elevate your legs. If you want, play relaxing music. Close your eyes and focus on the sounds.

2. At night, before trying to sleep, take a warm bath. Add lavender oil to the water. Focus on relaxing muscles that feel tight as you explore your body. Each time you exhale, visualize your warm breath moving through the tense areas and relaxing them.

3. Prepare your sleeping environment. Make sure the room is completely dark. If death has caused you fear, keep a night light on and wear a sleep mask. If traffic or other noise is keeping you awake, try earplugs. (If you sleep on your side, put an earplug in one ear.) Keep room temperature at 70 degrees. A room that is too hot or too cold only increases insomnia.

4. Follow your usual routine before bed, whatever it is. If you can’t do it, read something light, if possible. Or play a tape of nature sounds. Take off any tight or restrictive clothing, even if it means sleeping naked.

5. Put a pen and paper on the nightstand next to your bed. When your mind starts racing, or you start thinking about what you need to do the next day, get up and write it all down. Then go back to bed.

6. If you still can’t fall asleep, try using a one-word mantra. For example, focus on your breathing and each time you exhale repeat the word sleep. Other possibilities would be words like release, relaxation, calm, slow, or rest. As soon as you find your mind wandering to tomorrow or your big loss, gently return to repeating your word. Don’t be alarmed that you have to start saying the word again because you were thinking of something else. That is a common experience.

7. Some experts believe that electronic devices can interfere with sleep. Make sure that nothing of that nature, such as a watch, is not near your head.

8. If you fall asleep and then wake up after a couple of hours and can’t get back to sleep, start using your one-word mantra again. This may also be a time when you want to try one of the sleep-inducing herbal remedies, such as valerian, passion flower, or chamomile. Some people have had success using the amino acid L-tryptophan.

In short, sleep disturbances are a normal part of the complaint process. The emphasis is on normality. Work patiently to clear your mind by learning to focus on a word and your breathing rate. Persist in following a set routine and try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Light exercise during the day (walking for 10 to 15 minutes) can also ease sleep. The most important thing, although difficult to do, is not to overreact to not being able to sleep. This increases the alarm reaction inside. Your normal sleep patterns will gradually return.


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