Changes in your sleep cycle
As a result of what has been occurring in your life, and the many feelings, thoughts and/or associated shock – even if the circumstances are expected, you may experience changes in your sleep cycle, which can leave you feeling exhausted, hard to focus, feeling overwhelmed and finding it hard to make decisions. What can be confusing, is that many of the symptoms of insomnia may also be similar, initially to your feelings or thoughts resulting from the experience of loss and/or associated shock.
Some of these changes are also influenced by your environment, such as changes to your diet, an increase in alcohol or drug use, staying up much later, eating different types of food, eating at different times of the evening, exercising at night to distract you from what has occurred or finding that you are spending more time in the evening thinking, worrying and planning.
Trouble getting to sleep
As a result of many different feelings and thoughts associated with your experience of loss, you may find that when you do go to bed, it may be the first time in the day that you have been alone with your own thoughts. Once you are in bed, without the simulation, noise and action of the day, you may find that there is nothing to distract you from your thoughts. You may find yourself thinking, planning and worrying. Some people describe this time as feeling as if they have just switched on a lightswitch in their head and are unable to turn it back off. Often, a person will identify that just before they go to bed, they are feeling exhausted and once in bed they suddenly feel alert, with their mind racing and unable to sleep.
Once you have practiced this exercise to the point where it is now very familiar, stop practicing it during the day. As soon as you are in bed, with the lights out, in a comfortable position and ready to go to sleep, start the exercise. As stated earlier, if you find you mind wandering, this is to be expected, bring yourself back gently to the beginning of the exercise and start again. Don’t be trapped into feeling frustrated if this happens as this is to be expected. If you allow yourself to feel frustrated, your body will naturally enter a state of muscle tension, which will prevent sleep. So if you do find yourself experiencing negative thoughts, recognise that these thoughts will pass and it is to be expected that you may experience them. When you first start doing this exercise at night, you may find that you have to bring yourself back to the beginning of the exercise a few times, this is completely normal and each night you practice this, it should decrease. If you fall asleep while doing the exercise that is great, it means it is working!
Trouble staying asleep
There are many reasons why once your sleep cycle is disrupted, you may experience a disruption to different parts of the cycle. Some people may fall asleep as soon as they go to bed, others may have difficulty falling asleep and for others, they may have difficulty staying asleep. Some people identify that they are woken up in relation to environmental factors, or they find themselves thinking, worrying and planning, especially soon after the shock and for others, they may find themselves waking up and just lying there, without anything particular to worry about but with a sense of alertness and feeling that they are unable to go back to sleep.
Changes in your sleep cycle are completely normal and to be expected. There are things you can do to resume a sleep cycle prior to your experience of loss and/or shock, where you were waking up feeling refreshed and rested.
You may begin to notice that if you have been following the instructions on eating, drinking and other aspects of preparing for sleep that the number of times you wake up and the time you wake up over night has started to change and decrease. If you do happen to wake up overnight, practise the exercise and follow the instructions as per the section on trouble getting to sleep.