Sleep Problems After Separation or Divorce – and How to Beat Them
At 2 a.m. while the rest of the world is fast asleep, you are agonizing over all the details, all alone. You probably know that the middle of the night is no time to address those pressing problems, yet you find yourself suffering through the wee hours and waking exhausted day after day.
Let’s take a closer look at what causes the sleeplessness that typically accompanies separation and divorce, along with some strategies for getting back to a healthy sleep routine.
Why sleep eludes us after divorce or separation?
No two divorces are identical, yet most people who have recently separated or divorced find themselves wide awake when it’s time to sleep, mulling over the details, wondering what went wrong, and worrying about what the future holds.
Even though our stories are different, there is a single common thread that winds its way through all of them – Stress.
The team at Bedroom Critic agree, stating:
“Stress and sleeplessness are steady companions, so much so that sleep experts have a name for this kind of insomnia. Known as transient insomnia or acute adjustment insomnia, these sleep problems prevent our brains from undertaking essential processes that eventually lead to healing. Without REM sleep, we’re not processing our emotions properly. And without restful sleep in general, our flight or fight systems stay active for more hours, and cortisol production remains high instead of dropping off”.
These sleep-related physiological responses can lead to serious health consequences. As it turns out, finding a solution can help keep blood pressure under control, prevent the weight from skyrocketing, and keep stress from getting even worse.
What to do about insomnia during separation and divorce?
There are many ways to deal with insomnia during and after divorce or separation. Most people find that a combination of techniques which leads to restful sleep and over time, healthy sleep patterns return as life takes on a new normal.
Here are some tried-and-true methods for banishing insomnia –
1. See a therapist
While many balks at the idea of visiting a professional for cognitive behavioral therapy, having an uninvolved person listen without judgment can work wonders for your state of mind during these fragile days.
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make your sleep problems worse and replace those thoughts and behaviors with other, more beneficial ones.
Some therapists also specialize in biofeedback, relaxation training, and other methods for dealing directly with insomnia.
Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash
2. Double-check bedtime habits
When it feels like the whole world is collapsing, we often turn to comforting foods, alcohol, and or binge-watching TV (sad, romantic comedies) for reassurance.
Unfortunately, things like coffee, nicotine, sugary treats, and alcohol can inhibit normal sleep patterns, either preventing us from dropping off to sleep or waking us up at 2 or 3 a.m. so that we can resume those terrible thought loops that led us toward the kitchen or bar in the first place.
The TV, your laptop, and even your smartphone are to blame for emitting disruptive blue light, which also inhibits sleep. Unless you have blue light blocking apps, night settings, or special glasses to block blue light, it’s best to avoid screen time altogether within about an hour of bedtime.
If it is impossible for you to avoid TV, watch out for scary or violent shows and try not to watch the late news. Go for something soothing or even boring instead. Nature shows are ideal as they tend to show beautiful, peaceful images that can help you deal with stress a bit, or why not switch on some relaxing music.
If you’re willing to give up screen time and a warm bath, relaxing essential oils, and other helpful bedtime practices aren’t enough to keep wakefulness at bay, a good old-fashioned book might be enough to distract you from your worries and help you relax so you can fall asleep faster.
Choose something that isn’t interesting, and be sure that you’re not indulging in the latest thriller right before bed. When you read in warm, yellow light, prop your feet up comfortably, and maybe snuggle with a cozy blanket, the right book can move you toward sleep quickly.
3. Try herbal teas and natural sleep aids
Where prescription or OTC sleeping pills might leave you feeling groggy and out of sorts the day after you take them, many herbal remedies help you fall asleep gently and allow you to wake up feeling refreshed.
There are many excellent formulas on the market.
Teas such as chamomile or a sleeping blend help your whole body and mind unwind by treating you to warm, soothing aromas and mild relaxants. Look for blends that contain valerian, hops, catnip, chamomile, and passionflower. Some contain lavender and mint as well.
If you think you need something stronger, you might consider an herbal sleep supplement. Melatonin is popular, and so are valerian, hops, chamomile, and proprietary blends that make use of several soothing herbs.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about these if you take prescription medications of any kind. While these remedies are natural, they can be strong – and some do have known drug interactions.
Aromatherapy can help you get to sleep as well.
It is effortless to combine with other methods for beating insomnia after divorce or separation. Essential oils work directly on your limbic system, and some offer well-documented relaxing effects, so much so that people who use them are advised not to drive or do other important tasks while enjoying them.
The lavender essential oil is a classic, and scents such as clary sage and chamomile are quite soothing as well. Add a few drops of your favorite to a diffuser, turn it on, and let the soothing aromas relax your mind and body.
If you like, you can use aromatherapy bath and body products as well. Just be sure to avoid refreshing scents like lemon, rosemary, and orange at bedtime.
4. Check your sleep environment
A comfortable mattress and cozy pillows are just the beginning. Make sure that you’re sleeping in a dark room at the ideal temperature. For most people, the best temperature for sleep is 60 to 67 degrees.
Move reminders of your relationship to a different room if you can. While this may be very difficult, removing these visual stimuli can help you intentionally shift your focus to new, positive things that you’re looking forward to in the coming weeks, months, and years.
With time and some helpful remedies, therapy, and even meditation, your stress will diminish and your insomnia will become a distant memory.
Once your life finds a new normal, your sleep patterns will settle back into an acceptable routine as well.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.