Sleep after Loss
Posted on May 16, 2012 by Robyn Grant , One of Thousands of Health and Fitness Coaches on Noomii.
the dangers of compromised sleep after the deathof a loved one and what simple steps can be taken to assure health stays in balance
I have been a night hawk since childhood. For whatever reasons, usually stress-related, I would stay up at night thinking, worrying, being mentally active. That became a habit and as time has gone by, I have been able to curb it, bit by bit.
However, in 2009, my father passed away suddenly. For about a year, I didn’t realize what was happening, as I slept but woke up in a terrible mood. It took me some months to realize that basically, because of this stressor, I was going to sleep but not getting into deep sleep. It was a terrible feeling and frankly I felt like I was dying some slow death. I had heard that grief could lead to depression but I didn’t understand what this was.
I researched on the internet and found information that showed the relationship between sudden death of a loved one and sleep. I found out someting that surprised me…that major life stressors, usually related to a sudden shock, can result in the affected people developing serious illness. The reason? …lack of deep sleep. This has to do with the stress causing an increase in the “stress hormone” called Cortisol. When this hormone is high, when we are in an extended stressed state, it suppresses the sleep hormone called Melatonin, that allows us to get deep sleep.
Now, what I didn’t know until then is that Melatonin plays an active role in protecting our cells from cancer and that the percentage of people who develop cancer within a couple of years of loosing a loved one suddenly and without forewarning is very high. Wow…I was really concerned. I needed to get my sleep back on track. Not only were the people in my family getting tired of my bad moods but I knew my health was at risk. In fact, I had spent the previous months telling my significant other that I felt like I was dying – even though I knew that sounded melodramatic.
I knew I wasn’t being a hypochondriac, but I really did feel like my body, and my mind were in such a state of stress that I didn’t know how I would “make it”. Now, if you have lost a parent, or God forbid, a child or close relative, you will know what I mean. Until you have experienced it, it’s hard to imagine just how bad you can feel. NOt everyone has this experience, but if you have, you know what I mean.
So, I immediately went to the health food store and explained my situation. They suggested Time Release Melatonin by a company called Innovite. They said that this is what the hospital nurses use who do shift work and how they keep their sleep on track. I bought two bottles and started immediately. They cost under $10 each, thank goodness.
Next…I thought through a regimen of what I needed to make sure I would start getting deep sleep again long term and not become dependent on the Melatonin.
•First of all, I would wind down my day earlier.
•Second of all, about 9pm, I would take my melatonin and enjoy a cup of Sleepy Time Tea by Celestial Seasonings.I just bought that at Overwaitea.
•I started having a hot bath with 1 cup of Epsoms Salts and 1 cup of Baking Soda and a drop or three of YOung Living Lavender oil. Wow…did that ever help ge me to sleep.
•Lastly, I realized that the mineral Magnesium plays a big part in getting deep restful sleep, and muscle relaxation, which affects heart health too, and all muscle health; and so I started taking that – 1 ounce of Ionic Magnesium before bed.
Okay, now I must say that this made a huge difference and although my family was already feeling fed up with my bad mood, things started to improve all around. Most importantly, I felt like I was getting energy and mental stamina back. I could feel that my system was starting to re-boot and my mind followed by beginning to be more and more hopeful and tolerant of daily stressors.
Sleep is critical during times of stress and I write this article in the hope that people who are in similar situations will get the support they need faster. Usually when there is a death in the immediate family, the family doctor will offer sleeping pills. Now I understand why! However, we can become completely dependent on them, sometimes for years, and, like any pharmaceuticals, they have side effects. However, they are one option. Time Release Melatonin is another, and a more natural approach and does help protect your cells from health risks of stress and create a healthy sleep pattern.
I took the Time Release Melatonin for a good year before I started to wean my self off and then I found I was so much more rested that I didn’t need it. Because I have a history of being a night hawk, I keep it on hand, and I also set my alarm for 930 pm, take my dog for a night time short walk and a breathe of fresh air and then get myself into bed by 1030pm. If I need Melatonin, I take it, but I find usually I do not now. I have a regimen that works for me and it has taken a while to estabish but I say it is well worth it and hope I can be forgiven for all the grumpy and miserable mornings I woke up to in the year or so I was not sleeping well.
These new sleep patterns have taken some time to establish, especially because I didn’t have them as a child. It’s been worth the effort though. First of all because of the health risks and secondly because I am enjoying my sleep for the first time in years; And most mornings wake up feeling rested. That means the whole day has a a buzz and a light to it that I didn’t know was possible. I recommend it and hope that you can take some tips from my experience and get the sleep you need.
Some people can do this on their own, like I did. Others need a bit of help. I’m available for “action planning” sessions as needed to help with sleep and other basic areas of life that we may need to improve.
In either case, let me know what is working for you when it comes to sleep. We can learn a lot from one another.Feel free to email me a comment anytime.