How Important is Sleeping Well to Grief Healing?

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Not getting enough sleep?


There is a lot of fuss made of the symptoms of grief, both by medical professionals and well-meaning friends and family. They all seem to subscribe to the “it’s been 48 hours, aren’t you over it yet?” school of amateur psychology. I say both amateur and medical professionals because the ones I have encountered who have not yet had an intimate loss strike me as utterly without a clue. My mother’s geriatrician actually told her she was grieving too long at six months. I managed not to slug him and showed him the door. Here’s what Harvard Medical has to say about it:

Symptoms of grief often include fatigue, inability to focus, irritability, memory problems, weight gain or loss, and anxiety. Guess what? Those are the same symptoms of insufficient sleep! Many, if not most grievers have trouble sleeping enough and sleeping well. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the symptoms of grief could very well be mitigated by finding ways to sleep better? I know for sure that even before my loss if I didn’t get enough sleep I sure wasn’t at my best. My decisions were often not good, I made more mistakes, my memory was off and I felt like a slug.


Grief Fatigue

I’ve been a little disappointed in the medical field for their widespread ignorance and absence of research about the effects of grief. They don’t seem to be connecting the dots very well, at least in my opinion. I think it’s pretty obvious to conclude that if we can improve the sleep of the grieving, we can probably also improve their grief healing. Doesn’t that make sense to you too? I sure think it’s a good and healthy place to start.

A great many of the widows and widowers, again probably most, have used prescription sleep aids. I did for a time, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at all without them after my husband’s sudden death. If you have to, you have to, but they aren’t a good solution long term. So let’s take a look at some healthier alternatives, starting with what constitutes good sleep hygiene, or habits. For starters try:

  • Keeping a routine bedtime and wake time.
  • Maintain a pre-bedtime ritual, maybe a shower or a bath, reading a book in bed, prayer…something like that.
  • Milk and noncaffeinated tea can help.
  • Turn off all devices, including the TV 30 to 60 minutes before turning in.
  • Sleeping in the bed, not napping in the recliner
  • Buy new bed linens, maybe a new bed, if you think that may help
  • Keep your room as dark and quiet as possible
  • Lower the temperature a little bit. A cool room promotes sleep.
  • Use a little lavender nearby, or on your bedsheets.


More tips here, in these two articles:


Sleep Hygiene Tips

Between these suggestions above and prescription drugs are some other steps to take that are healthier. They  can include:

  • Benadryl, available over the counter and hard to overdose. Be aware that even a little bit can leave you feeling sort of “hungover” in the morning.
  • Melatonin, also available over the counter. No hangover effect, but check with your doctor for dosage ranges
  • CBD oil can be a big help. Not yet legal in all states, so check. It’s a cannabis product made from hemp and does NOT make you high. I’m the biggest goodie two shoes about drugs you’ve ever met, but I tried it and find it very helpful. It has also put my disposition on more of an even keel. I feel more like myself again. Check your state laws, do some research and check in with your doctor. If it’s for you, it may be quite a help.
  • Sleep with a body pillow. It can be very comforting in a bed that has become way too big and way too empty. I offer two from my online store, below.
  • Get a good pillow and perhaps a mattress topper. I have a MyPillow and I love it! My mattress topper means I no longer wake up achy.
  • A good mattress is the foundation of your sleep. When was the last time you replaced yours? Maybe it’s time.
  • Listen to some soft gentle sleep music.
  • Last but not least, I find the Slumber Sleep app on my iPhone very helpful. It’s like soothing bedtime tales for grown people. It’s free to try, and you can upgrade for more stories. My only complaint with Slumber is that I never know how the stories end! Find it here:



Here are two body pillow choices:


Body Pillow |

Purchase here




Purchase here


All through the tough times of my life, all the challenges at home or at work, I’ve always said, if I could get my sleep, I could handle anything. I still think that’s true. Grieving is hard work, it’s important to get our rest. Here’s hoping some of these suggestions help you. I’m wishing you all “Sweet Dreams!” ZzzzZZZzzzzZZZzzzz!


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