Have Trouble Sleeping Due to Grief

Have Trouble Sleeping Due to Grief

Grief can leave you with a myriad of physical and mental symptoms that are so hard to deal with. Many people find it hard to sleep when they are in grief. You may be wondering what is going on in your mind when you are unable to sleep. There is no one right way to sleep. Everyone has their own rhythm and their own way of falling asleep and waking up. 

If you are finding it difficult to fall asleep or wake up feeling refreshed, this article will explain why sleep is affected by grief, and how you can make it better. This article discusses the reasons why you have trouble sleeping due to grief and the ways to help people cope with it.

What Is Grief?

It is believed that grief is caused by long-term sadness and mourning over a loved one. Your thoughts are with someone you care about. You used to enjoy activities, but they don’t seem to interest you anymore. Food does not taste as good. It’s possible that you’re going through the motions, but not feeling anything. Even though grief is unpleasant, it is an essential life experience that everyone needs to face. Quite simply, it is a part of life.

We like to minimize our symptoms of grief and move on as soon as we can. Since sleep is so important to each of us emotionally, physically, and psychologically, it’s important that we get enough sleep. You might have trouble sleeping because of financial issues caused by the loss of a loved one, or you might have trouble sleeping because of intrusive and traumatic thoughts. By being aware of the effects of sleep deprivation and knowing active steps you can take to ensure you get enough sleep, the side effects of grief are more manageable.

How Does Grief Become Complicated?

The intensity of grief does not diminish for 10% to 15% of grievers. Even after six months have passed, these individuals still experience intense symptoms of grief. It’s known as complicated grief, long-term grief disorder, or traumatic grief. The symptoms include the following.


  • Preoccupation with and persistent longing for the deceased
  • Loss of trust in or detachment from others
  • Anger over the person’s death
  • Emotional numbness
  • Avoidance of things that remind them of their loved one
  • Loneliness
  • Recurrent and intrusive emotional pain
  • Survivor’s guilt
  • A sense of having lost part of one’s self


Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder can coexist with complicated grief, which is distinct from mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

It is possible for a person to develop complicated grief when they have lost a close loved one. People with a lower income and people who have lost a loved one to cancer are more likely to experience complicated grief.

Relation Between Grief and Sleep

A range of reactions can be experienced during bereavement. Your heart and body can ache from the pain of loss. There are problems with sleep caused by this alone. Those who are grieving can either experience sleepless nights or seek escape in sleeping more, because of the emotional reactions.

Sleep Disorders Caused by Grieving 

Lack of Sleep

Insomnia — 

Difficulty falling asleep or awakening at night is one of the symptoms of insomnia. After grieving the loss of a loved one, Insomnia is not uncommon.

 Physical pains from grief — 

There is pain from the grief that can be both emotional and physical. You become more aware of the physical sensations. Some side effects of grief are backaches, joint pain, headaches, and general stiffness and soreness. In your gut, you may feel a dull hollow.

 Excess Sleep


Hypersomnia can be caused by the exhaustion and sadness that accompanies grief, as well as excessive daytime sleepiness or oversleeping. People with depression see this as a symptom. Sleeping all day, taking a lot of naps, going to bed early in the evening, and oversleeping are some of the symptoms of hypersomnia.


Depression (and its physical side effects) —

Those who are mourning the loss of a loved one can experience depression. People who are depressed can experience significant weight gain or weight loss, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, and insomnia or hypersomnia.

The risk for sleep disturbances is higher for people with complicated grief as the condition is often accompanied by depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, it was found that people who recently lost a spouse were more likely to have disrupted sleep and that this fragmented sleep caused an increase in inflammation in their bodies. The researchers believed that widows and widowers could experience long-term inflammation if sleep did not improve.

Dreams are one-way grief and sleep are connected. Grieving folks dream about their loved ones. If the dreams are upsetting, they may have trouble sleeping.

Some people may sleep over. It is due to the fact that grief is emotionally exhausting.

Many people who are grieving feel they need to put on a brave face for others who are concerned for them in order to return to work

They are miserable inside. Keeping up with this tiring can lead to feelings of isolation, which can lead to spending time alone, which leads to lots of sleep.

The symptoms of grief can be felt on several levels including physical, emotional, mental, social, behavioral, and spiritual.

Types of Grief and Its Effects

Poor sleep quality is not a sign of complicated grief, but it could increase one’s risk of developing it. There are a growing number of studies showing that sleep and grief share a relationship. Sleep problems are reported by almost all individuals with complicated grief. Forty-six percent of people say they have trouble sleeping because of grief at least three times a week.

Spousal Bereavement and Sleep

More than one million American seniors lose their spouse or partner each year. Poor quality sleep is a common experience for these individuals. The more grief and sleep they have, the worse it is.

Since the widow or widower may have shared their bed with that loved one for decades, the loss of a partner can have a big impact on sleep. Everything about going to sleep can feel different, empty, and less safe when your partner dies. It is more difficult to fall asleep and sleep soundly because of this.

An increased risk of nursing home placement and medication use are some of the risks associated with the loss of a spouse later in life. Women who have lost a spouse are more than twice as likely to use sleep aids. Those who have lost a spouse have an increased risk of developing cancer or high blood pressure in the next two years. At any age, poor sleep is associated with poor health outcomes. Poor sleeping can double the risk of death for older people.

Additional Comorbidities and Sleep

Major depression can last for up to two years after the loss of a spouse, which is why it’s important for people to talk about it. People with depression and grief are more likely to suffer from worse sleep quality. Poor sleep can be predicted by the severity of their depression as well as their grief.

Changes in physical health may lead to sleep problems and intensify the grieving process. 42% of individuals experience a loss of appetite. Poor physical health at the time of the loss can increase the risk of developing grief and depression, as well as the associated sleep problems.

Individuals who have experienced the death of a spouse are more likely to have increased levels of inflammation compared to non-bereaved individuals with disturbed sleep due to extreme stress. Their risk of cardiovascular disease may increase due to this type of inflammation.

Losing a loved one can cause serious changes to lifestyle, such as a loss in financial security or safety, which can affect sleep quality. Grieving individuals may not exercise as much or participate in fewer social activities, both of which can affect the quality of their sleep. Poor sleep can be associated with sedentary lifestyles and loneliness alone.

How To Overcome Grief

All it takes to sleep better is a little self-care if you are struggling with sleep issues during the grieving process. Sleeping better while grieving is possible with a few strategies.

Start a Sleep Journal

Tracking your sleep habits and sleep quality can help you identify patterns and habits that might not be serving you. If you seek support from a medical professional, this information may be useful in determining whether to seek treatment or refer you for further testing.

Dedicate Time for Emotional Processing During the Day

Even if it is just for a few minutes, take time each day to journal or sit with your emotions. Feelings can crop up when you climb into bed, so this can help you release them.

It signals our minds to start running when we settle our bodies at the end of the night. When we’re away from our minds, we can bring forth memories and ask questions, which can cause us to relive experiences.

Meditate Before Bed

You have to remember that grief has no set duration, and it always ends up passing through. Your emotions are always changing, and eventually, they will pass away. There is a way to do this through meditation. Benoist suggests that you focus on your breathing for 10 minutes before you go to sleep.

Seek Social Support

Normal grief responses need to be supported. Seek out friends who care enough about you to listen without judgment, and who will make room for your emotions. You can adopt a morning and evening stretching routine. If you want to get back into your body and reduce anxiety, tai chi, stretching, and yoga are some of the best ways to do that. Morning and evening routines can be used to create a container for your days.

Eat Well and Exercise

Eliminating substances from your diet can cause sleep problems. Also, a big advocate of exercise, which can relieve stress. As well as keeping the body in good physical condition, it helps release tension, anxiety, and aggression. It is thought that regular exercise can make it easier to sleep.

Create a Peaceful Sleep Environment

Your chances of drifting off to sleep will increase if you have a comfortable, calming sleep space. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet by practicing good sleep hygiene. It’s a good idea to keep electronics out of the bedroom as their blue light can disrupt sleep cycles.

It is important to purchase a comfortable mattress and bedding. If you are prone to sleeping hot, a cooling mattress and sheets will protect you against waking up in the night with sweat on your skin. It can be hard to fall back asleep after a wake-up when you’re grieving, so do everything you can to help your body sleep through the night.


It depends on the severity of the loss. Most people feel better in about three months, but it can take up to a year for some people.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s all about what works for you. I know that I have found that it helps me to write in my journal, to listen to music, and to talk to other people who have lost someone.

Grief can affect your sleep in many ways. First, you may have trouble falling asleep. Second, you may wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep. Third, you may dream about the person who died.

It takes time to get over grief. It’s a process. The more you talk about it, the better. You’ll get better with time.

Grief affects your body in many ways. First, you may have trouble sleeping. Second, you may experience weight loss. Third, you may have a lot of feelings.


It can take several months to a year for grief to subside. Sleep problems are common during this time, so you may need to be patient with yourself. You may need to talk to your doctor about your sleep problem.

If you want to know more about different sleep-related disorders check out here.

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