Sleep is one of our most precious resources. It is vital to our health and well-being. Just as we need food for energy, we need sleep to relax and recharge. During sleep the body renews its energy, releases growth hormones, and heals itself. In times of extreme stress sleep is one of the first things to become disrupted. There are two types of disruption: excessive sleeping and lack of sleep. It is not uncommon to experience both of them in the same period of time and even alternate between not being able to sleep and sleeping what seems like all the time.
Everyone’s body reacts to stress in different ways. Whether you find yourself sleeping more than usual or sleepless at other times, it is not unusual to experience these difficulties during the transition of separation or divorce. Once you become aware that you are having sleeping irregularities, it is important to get help and not let it get progressively worse. Chronic insomnia contributes to injury and illness and may have adverse effects on cognitive functioning, interpersonal relationships, concentration, the ability to handle stress, and productivity.
Sleeping It Off
One of the ways our body takes care of itself is by sleeping. Some feel guilty or shameful about sleeping more than usual. There’s really nothing to feel ashamed about. Sleep is an important way the body recovers from stress and repairs itself. Trust that your body knows how to to take care of itself. It has many systems that function perfectly and automatically. Take breathing for instance. You don’t have to think about breathing. Your body naturally breathes without thinking about it, just like it circulates blood. Tiredness is an indication that your body needs to rest. It is can be an escape from facing life’s challenges. At the same time be gentle with yourself and grateful your body knows how to recover, even if it might take a little more time than you would like. A trip to see your internist or another professional is highly recommended. The effects of extreme stress can cause other health challenges, so take good care of yourself.
Not Enough Sleep
Insomnia, lack of adequate sleep, characterized by having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, is common during separation and divorce, just at the opposite end of the spectrum. In this case worrisome thoughts wake us up or prevent a deep, peaceful sleep. Below are a number of suggestions to help with insomnia. While disruptive sleep patterns are common in divorce and separation, in both cases we recommend seeing your doctor. Night time rituals effective in aiding with sleep: Before bed take a hot bath or shower to relax. Drink chamomile tea, warm milk, hot water with lemon or Natural Calm Anti Stress Drink. Just like we do for children, schedule your bedtime and go to bed at the same time every night. Your body will thank you. Use a sleep machine, hypnotic or relaxing CD to relax you into sleep. We recommend Brookstone’s Tranquil Moments Sleep Sound Therapy.
More Helpful Sleepy Hints
Keep a sleep journal to record your sleep rituals and sleep patterns. After a short time you may be able to discover specific causes that effect your insomnia. Limit your caffeine in the day, avoid it at night. Avoid naps if you are waking up in the middle of the night. Limit or avoid alcohol. At first alcohol can may make us drowsy, however for many of us we later wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning. Scientists know that this is the burst of nor-epinephrine in our system that awakes us in the middle of the night. For every glass of alcohol drink a glass of water. Daily exercise has many benefits including helping you sleep better. Keep in mind exercising in the day or afternoon is optimum. Evening exercise could hinder falling asleep or staying asleep.
Waking up in the middle of the night is double trouble. First worrisome thoughts wake you up and then there’s the added stress of knowing how lack of sleep will negatively effect you the next day. A tiered approach can often get us back to sleep. Step 1: Upon awaking in the middle of the night, try to calm yourself to sleep by keeping the light off and staying in bed. Watch your breath and take long, deep breaths. Fall asleep or move onto Step 2. Step 2: Listening to relaxing music or a hypnosis CD often calms the mind back to sleep. Once you find a CD you like you and get used to it, you may grow accustomed to falling asleep in just a few short minutes. Fall asleep or move onto the next step. Step 4: Staying in bed, read a book that typically would put you to sleep or engage your mind so that it does not get stuck in worrisome thoughts. Bedside Sudoku or Scrabble for the iPhone is a great way to engage your mind in an activity that requires all of your effort and does not allow you to think about anything else. When your mind is tired it will also fall asleep. While disruptive sleep patterns are common in divorce and separation, in both cases we recommend seeing your doctor.
About the Authors
Allison Pescosolido, M.A. and Andra Brosh Ph.D. are divorce recovery specialists working at Divorce Detox (www.divorcedetox.com), the leader in divorce recovery. Their programs provide the tools, courage, fortitude and inspiration to transform the way people think and feel about their divorce. They help individuals transition through separation and divorce to rebuild their lives. Allison and Andra understand the pain of divorce and see divorce as an opportunity for personal growth, wisdom and a happier life.