Divorce Detox: Sleep is one of our most precious resources during divorce. It's vital to our health and well-being. During sleep, the body renews its energy, releases growth hormones and heals. Yet during divorce -- a time of extreme stress -- sleep is one of the first things to become irregular.
There are two types of disruptions: 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, so it is
not unusual to experience sleep disturbances during the transition of
separation or divorce. Once you become aware that you are having
sleeping irregularities, it is important that you get help and don't let the problem 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 ashamed about sleeping more than usual during divorce, but there's really nothing to be ashamed about. Sleep is an important
way for the body to recover from stress and repair itself. Trust that your
body knows what it's doing! It has many systems that
function perfectly and automatically. Take breathing, for instance: Your body naturally breathes
without you having to think about it, just as it circulates blood. Feeling tired is
an indication that your body needs to rest.
Yes, sleep can be an escape
from facing life's challenges; if you are not receiving help, do so. But at the same time, be gentle with yourself. Be grateful that your body knows
how to recover -- even if it might be taking a little more time than you
would like. A trip to see your internist or another medical professional is
highly recommended, as well. The effects of extreme stress can cause other
health challenges, so take good care of yourself.
Not Enough Sleep
-- lack of adequate sleep characterized by having difficulty
falling asleep or staying asleep -- is common during separation and
divorce. Worrisome thoughts may wake us up or prevent a deep, peaceful sleep. Here are some things that may help you relax so you can get some shuteye:
- Take a hot bath or shower before bed.
- In the evening, drink chamomile tea,
warm milk, hot water with lemon or Natural Calm Anti-Stress Drink.
- Schedule your bedtime: Go to bed at
the same time every night.
- Use a sleep
machine or listen to a soothing CD. (We recommend
Brookstone's "Tranquil Moments Sleep Sound Therapy".)
- Keep a gratitude journal. Each night before you turn out the light, jot down a few things that you are grateful for. (Even
in times of extreme stress, we can be grateful for our breath, the sun, a warm
cup of tea .... Focusing on gratitude before bed shifts your mind to a
loving state. It's easier to drift to sleep coming from a place of
gratitude than from a place of fear and worry.)
- Set a "bedtime intention." State the positive outcome you wish to
receive each night, without using the words "no" or "don't". For
example: "My bedtime intention is to release all stress and tension in
my mind and body. I intend to sleep peacefully throughout the night
and wake up in the morning after eight hours of sleep feeling revived, refreshed,
renewed and thankful for a new day."
- Keep a sleep journal and record your sleep rituals and patterns.
After a short time, you may be able to identify specific things that worsen your insomnia.
- Limit your caffeine during the day; avoid it at night.
- Avoid napping if you find that you are waking up in the middle of the night.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. (At
first, alcohol may make you drowsy; later on, though, it might wake you up by activating a burst of norepinephrine.)
- Exercise daily in the morning or afternoon. You'll experience many benefits, including better sleep. (Keep in mind, however, that exercising in the evening could make it harder for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.)
Waking up in the middle of the night is double trouble. First, worrisome thoughts rouse you; then there's the added stress of
knowing how the lack of sleep will negatively affect you the next day. A
tiered approach can often get you back to sleep:
Step 1: Upon waking up in the middle of the night, try to calm yourself back to sleep by keeping the light off and staying in bed. Pay attention to your
breathing and take long, deep breaths. If you don't fall back to sleep, move on to ...
Step 2: Listen to relaxing music or a hypnosis CD. Once you find one you like and get used to
it, you may grow accustomed to falling back asleep in just a few minutes. If that doesn't work, move on to ...
Step 3: Read a book in bed -- one that typically either makes you drowsy or engages your mind to the point where there's no room for worrisome
thoughts. Once your mind is tired, you will fall asleep.
||Andra Brosh, Ph.D., and Allison Pescosolido, MA, are the leading divorce-recovery experts in Los Angeles. Founders of "Divorce Detox," a proven program guaranteed to speed recovery through the divorce transition, Andra and Allison are certified grief-recovery experts, and both hold advanced degrees in the field of psychology. Visit www.divorcedetox.com to learn more about their programs and cutting-edge work.