Tips for Coping with Sleeplessness

Categories: Bereavement

Research indicates that grief and loss can have a significant impact on sleep. Sleep is disrupted in many ways: in the struggle to fall asleep, poor sleep quality, and difficulty in staying asleep. In the case of poor sleep quality, some bereaved individuals may find they sleep more than usual and wake feeling exhausted.

Staying healthy, emotionally and physically, is directly related to how much and how well we are sleeping. Feeling rested supports our overall well-being and our ability to cope with loss. Below are some ideas to help you achieve a peaceful night’s rest. There are many sleep applications available for iPhone and Android phones. We’ve included a list of free highly reviewed apps at the end. Hope some of this helps!


  • Cut back on caffeine and nicotine several hours before bed.
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week for 20 minutes or more (but not immediately before bed).
  • Sleep with something warm, such as a hot water bottle, heating pad, or pet.
  • Wind down with a ritual such as a warm bath or shower or reading a book. Do the same thing before bed each night to create a routine.
  • Go to bed and wake up the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Sleep in a cool, dark, well-ventilated room.
  • Sleep with white or pink noise (e.g., fan, white/pink noise machine).
  • Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
  • Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day.
  • Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythms and suppress melatonin.
  • If you use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.


  • Drink alcohol before bed. It disrupts your sleep cycle. In larger quantities, it is a depressant.
  • Nap late in the day, or if napping earlier, try to make them last more than 20 minutes.
  • Expose yourself to bright indoor lights such as from electronic devices like TV, tablet, phone, or computer screens 1-2 hours before bed.
  • Use the bed for anything other than sleep (e.g., watching TV, reading, working on the computer).

–Pippa H., grief counselor

Sleep Apps

   Sleep Cycle tracks and analyzes your sleep patterns.

   Relax Melodies allows you to select a combination of nature and musical sounds.

   Relax & Sleep Well includes four free stress-busting hypnotherapy and meditation recordings.

   Sleep Time uses an accurate, state-of-the-art algorithm to analyze sleep.

   White Noise Free helps drown out unwanted sounds so you can relax and focus on sleeping.

   The Mindfulness App helps you practice mindfulness.

   Pillow is an advanced sleep tracking and analysis alarm clock that monitors your slumber.

   Digipill uses a formulated blend of language and sound to engage and activate the mind, change your thinking, and promote well being.

   Calm is a relaxation and meditation app that has a wide selection of guided imagery and sleep stories.

   Recolor provides more than 1,000 images to help you relax, rest your mind, and send you into a Zen-like meditative state.

   Pzizz is a sleep and power nap system that sends you to sleep at the push of a button.

   Headspace is an easy-to-understand meditation app for beginners and is great for those with busy schedules.

grief and loss, rest, sleep, sleeping, sleeplessness
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