3 Bedtime Rituals To Help You Reclaim Your Zzzs When Grieving
11 min read

3 Bedtime Rituals To Help You Reclaim Your Zzzs When Grieving

3 Bedtime Rituals To Help You Reclaim Your Zzzs When Grieving
Photo by Jr Korpa / Unsplash

Soothe anxiety, emotional overwhelm, and an overactive mind

Sleep problems anyone?

It might have been a week or 2 years since your person died and you are having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. You have been sleep-deprived for the last 3 months and the grieving is hitting you hard, and you dread the end of your day.

Even if you manage to pass out from utter fatigue at midnight, you still wake up a few hours later and it trying to go back to sleep is like trying to run a marathon. You might not be able to sleep for multiple different reasons and I have created three bedtime rituals to help you fall and stay asleep if you cannot fall asleep because of anxiety, emotional overwhelm, or a mind that will just not quiet down.

Lifestyle Upgrades

Before you get started with the bedtime rituals, I've included some lifestyle upgrades you can incorporate into your life to improve sleep.

  • Exercise: Try as much as possible to incorporate some form of exercise or movement into your daily routine even if it is just a 15-minute walk
  • Stimulants: Avoid things like caffeine and alcohol after 5:00 pm
  • Naps: Avoid naps as much as possible, but if you are a napper like me, make sure you nap before 3:00 pm for no more than 30 minutes
  • Natural supplements: Try natural sleep supplements like Magnesium, sleepy time teas, Melatonin, CBD oil spray, and gummies. Check this article out for additional natural sleep aids
  • Blue Light: Turn off all blue light screens 30 minutes to an hour before bed. You can put on your blue light filter on your phone or invest in blue light glasses
  • Bedtime ritual: Use one of the bedtime rituals in this article or create one for yourself. Just make sure you try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time to help bring back balance to your circadian rhythm
  • Snacks: This might sound counterintuitive, but some snacks about an hour before bed like nuts, bananas, and lean protein might help you fall asleep. Avoid things with sugar or carbs as this will spike your sugar levels and keep you in a hyper-aroused state. If you have nightmares though, you might want to skip this
  • Sleep sanctuary: Create a sleep sanctuary so that your body knows to start unwinding as soon as you get into your bedroom
  • Use sleep aids: A lot of research has gone into creating products that can support your issues with sleep, use them

Sleep Hygiene

Your bedroom should be a sanctuary: a safe space that allows you to unwind, enter and remain in deep sleep. In addition to transforming your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary by changing the décor, and upgrading your mattress and beddings, there are also sleep hygiene practices you can do daily to enhance your sleep environment and experience which you can check out in this article.

Invocation

A key part of any ritual is opening to receive support from something that is greater than yourself. If you are religious, you can invite the main spirit of your religion and if you are not, you can invoke transpersonal energies such as the body intelligence, nature, life, and Jungian archetypes like the self to support you as you transition from waking consciousness to sleep and dreams. Check this article that explains art of rituals within the context of grief.

Sleep Aids & Resources

There are many different resources like sleep apps, natural supplements, and products that can support you in your journey to better sleep. Check this article out to see what resources you can incorporate into your bedtime ritual. You might also read this article on the anatomy of a bedtime ritual for grief to get a deeper understanding of the different components of the rituals included here as well as learn how to create your own ritual.

3 Bedtime Rituals to Help with Grief

A few more things…

  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night. The starting times here are for demonstration purposes only
  • Spend as much or as little time as you need on the different activities. For example, you might prefer 10 minutes of a wind-down activity or an hour-long sweat session. Also, feel free to switch up the other activities in the ritual
  • Tomorrow morning starts tonight. Make sure to write down any goals and priorities you have for tomorrow and plan your day so that these things don’t keep swirling in your mind
  • In grief, when everything feels out of control, setting a small personal intention for the night can help you feel more in control and supported.  I have included an intention specific for each ritual, but feel free to modify it to something that resonates more with you

Ritual 1: Physical Anxiety

When night rolls in, you feel restless. You are revved up and even though you are exhausted, you cannot fall asleep. Your muscles are tense, and you are jumpy. Grief usually stimulates the stress response in your body and over time, the elevated levels of the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in your body are what is keeping you in a hyper-aroused and hypervigilant anxious state at night when all you want to do is sleep.

Use this bedtime ritual to help calm down your nervous system so that you can fall asleep.

Ritual Flow - Rooted Relief

Total Time: 30 - 90 minutes

Ritual Intention: I give permission for my body to release all anxiety and stress, and enter a peaceful space ready for deep sleep

6:00 - 8:00 P.M.: Evening Activities: Spend some time doing things like an hour-long restorative yoga class, cooking dinner, or any of the other early evening activities in this article to help yourself get into a space where you are ready for bed

8:00 - 8:15 P.M.: Wind down activity: With anxiety, yoga is very beneficial to help you ground and release any anxiety from your body. Spend about 15 minutes doing the following yoga asanas to mellow you out and stimulate your body’s rest and digest cycle. You can also have some music playing in the background. Perform the yoga stretches below, follow this bedtime yoga video or this yoga bedtime chart to promote tranquility and relaxation

8:15 - 8:30 P.M.: Reflect & Journal: Settle in and reflect on your day with a journal and a cup of grounding and relaxing tea. Check-in with yourself and validate everything you have been through

  • Tea: Prepare a cup of lemon grass, valerian root, or chamomile tea which will further help relax you and reduce anxiety symptoms. If you are feeling experimental, try the sleep elixir recipe of holy basil, oat milk, and raw honey, or this banana tea recipe

Journal Prompts

  • How was your day?
  • What did you do today that you are proud of?
  • How are you feeling now that the day is over?
  • What sensations are feeling in your body?
  • If they were a color, what would they be?
  • If they could talk, what would they say?
  • Describe how you want your night and sleep to look like

8:30 - 8:45 P.M.: Personal Hygiene: Spend some time taking care of your personal hygiene. This might include brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc. You can also spend a few minutes massaging your feet using lotion or oil to ground you and reduce anxiety

8:45 - 9:00 P.M.: Sleep Hygiene: You want to spend a few minutes ensuring that your bedroom is ready for sleep. Research shows that weighted blankets are helpful for sleep and you can use the Luna weighted blanket or a grounding mat for your bed or sheets to induce relaxation further.

9:00 P.M: Blue Lights Out: Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes to 60 minutes before you go to bed or at this point before your sadhana practice

9:00 - 9:30 P.M.: Sadhana practice: Take the next 30 minutes to prepare for sleep and enter a space of deep by turning inwards and opening yourself up to receive support. You can practice lying down on your bed

  • Invocation: Say your invocation out loud to invite support from something bigger than you
  • Breathwork: Perform a gentle breathing exercise like the 4-7-8 breathing exercise for 2-3 minutes to help release any lingering anxiety from your body and activate the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system. You can also listen to this breathwork from Insight Timer.
  • Meditation: Spend about 15 minutes on this Energy Releasing Visualization Meditation to ground yourself and release any excess energy from your body or this meditation from the grounded sleep podcast (listen at 0.8x speed)
  • 9:30 P.M.: Sleep: Put on eyeshade, ear plugs, or any other sleep devices you may need like white noise, sleep music from the free app Insight Timer

Ritual 2: Overwhelming Emotions

For some people, the weight of sadness and other excruciating emotions may come pouring out at night when the business of the day dies down and there are no activities to distract you from all the tears that have just been there beneath the surface.

This bedtime ritual will offer you a safe space to process difficult emotions if you are ready to self-soothe yourself in preparation for healing sleep.

Ritual Flow - Floating Free

Total Time: 60 - 90 minutes

Ritual Intention: I allow all emotions to flow and release peacefully as I enter a relaxed state conducive to deep healing sleep

6:00 - 8:00 P.M.: Evening Activities - Spend some time doing any of the early evening activities suggested below to help yourself get into a space where you are ready for bed, or check out additional activities in this article

  • Have a cuddle session with a loved one or pet
  • Connect with your family members at home, call someone close, or connect with other grievers on social media
  • Connect with your emotions by setting aside 30-minutes to have a crying session followed by a warm shower

8:00 - 8:15 P.M.: Wind down activity: When you are filling emotionally overwhelmed with sadness, anger, guilt, or any other constellation of emotions, it might be helpful to spend some time self-soothing using some of these somatic self-soothing practices

8:15 - 8:30 P.M.: Reflect & Journal: Settle in and reflect on your day with a journal as you sip some tea. You can also create a cozy space by dimming the lights and putting on some ambient music

  • Tea: Prepare a cup of lemon grass, valerian root, or chamomile tea which will further help relax you and reduce anxiety symptoms. If you are feeling experimental, try the sleep elixir recipe of holy basil, oat milk, and raw honey, or this banana tea recipe

Journal Prompts

  • How was your day? What emotions did you experience and what caused them?
  • What did you do today that you are proud of?
  • How are you feeling now that the day is over?
  • What emotions are you feeling right now?
  • Where are they in your body?
  • If they were a color, what would they be?
  • If they could talk, what would they say? For example, I am sad because…
  • Describe how you want your night and sleep to look like

8:30 - 8:45 P.M.: Personal Hygiene: Spend some time taking care of yourself.

  • With emotional overwhelm, a warm candlelight bath with lavender essential oils and bath salts can be especially soothing
  • You can also spend extra time massaging your face and body with a lotion or oil of your choice to further relax and soothe you

8:45 - 9:00 P.M.: Sleep Hygiene: You want to spend a few minutes ensuring that your space is ready for sleep. See some of the suggestions above. In addition, for emotional overwhelm you can spray lavender pillow mist on your pillow for soothing and turn on an essential oil diffuser

9:00 P.M.: Blue Lights Out: Switch off all blue light screens like computers and phones.

9:00 - 9:30 P.M.: Sadhana practice: Take the next 30 minutes to prepare for sleep and enter a space of deep by turning inwards and opening yourself up to receive support. You can practice lying down on your bed

  • Invocation: Say your invocation out loud to invite support from something bigger than you
  • Breathwork: Try the 4-4-6 breathing technique to help you drift when you’re feeling overwhelmed

Inhale through the nose for 4, hold the breath for 4, then exhale through the mouth for 6

You can also listen to guided breathwork from Insight Timer

9:30 P.M.: Sleep: Put on eyeshade, ear plugs, turn on white noise, sleep music from the free app Insight Timer and go to sleep if you are not already sleeping that is

Ritual 3: Mental Ruminations & Flashbacks

Maybe you cannot sleep because your mind races and you are constantly flooded with thoughts of your person. It cannot stop processing the loss when all you want to do is just sleep.

You are consumed with the events surrounding the last 24 hours of your loved one’s life and you keep replaying those moments repeatedly; what they said, how they looked, what you could have done, should have done.

When your mind is racing and overloaded and ambushed by traumatic memories, ruminations, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts, use this bedtime ritual to help you empty and quieten your mind in preparation for a rejuvenating and peaceful night of sleep

Ritual Flow - Be Still My Mind

Total Time: 30 – 90 minutes

Ritual Intention: I release all thoughts, images, and worries and enter a space of deep relaxation and peace

6:00 - 8:00 P.M.: Evening Activities - Spend some time doing things like solving a puzzle, working on a house project, or any of the other early evening activities in this article to help yourself get into a space where you are ready for bed

8:00 - 8:15 P.M.: Wind down activity: To switch your brain from ruminating to winding down, perform the rhythmic tapping practice created by Jim Donovan

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the ground, and start tapping lightly on any part of each of your legs alternating between them at about 4 taps per second on each leg
  • Next, add breath to the tapping by inhaling to a count of 4 and exhaling to a count of 4
  • Continue for about 5 minutes making the tapping slower for the last 20 seconds

8:15 - 8:30 P.M.: Reflect & Journal: Settle in and empty out all the thoughts racing around in your mind on paper. You might also want to sip a cup of passionflower tea and listen to binaural beats or any other music to help calm your brain while you journal. Use the prompts below or just write whatever comes to mind

  • How are you feeling at this moment?
  • What went well today, and what didn’t?
  • How was your grief today and what did you miss most about the person who passed?
  • What did you do today that you are proud of and would love to share with them?

8:30 - 8:45 P.M.: Personal Hygiene: Spend some time taking care of yourself. This might include brushing your teeth and taking a nice warm shower. You can also use lotion oil that helps induce soothing like CBD oil. You can also give yourself a warm-oil foot massage to draw out the excess energy from your head and into your feet. This will help relax your body and aid to quiet your chatty mind.

  • Warm up some coconut or olive by placing it in a bowl of boiled water for about 2 minutes
  • Massage each foot for about 3 minutes working the oil through your entire feet including your ankles

8:45 - 9:00 P.M.: Sleep Hygiene: Spend a few minutes ensuring that your space is ready for sleep by doing things like making sure the temperature is between 60-68 degrees, spraying lavender on your pillow, turning off all blue screens or putting on blue light filters on your phone. Check this article for additional sleep hygiene practices

9:00 P.M: Blue Lights Out: Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes to 60 minutes before you go to bed or at this point before your sadhana practice

9:00 - 9:30 P.M.: Sadhana practice: This is your time to sit with yourself and tune in internally and open yourself to connect with something bigger than yourself that can support you in your journey with grief starting with a good night of sleep that can replenish your depleted resources.

  • Invocation: Say your invocation out loud to invite support from something bigger than you
  • Breathwork: Perform a gentle breathing exercise like box breathing or do a guided breathwork like this one from insight timer or any other sleep app to help your mind calm down
  • Meditation: Listen to a guide meditation or visualization to help you sleep, or unwind like this yoga Nidra or any other meditation that creates space for your mind to gently come to rest

9:30 P.M.: Sleep: Put on eyeshade, ear plugs, turn on white noise, sleep music from the free app Insight Timer and go to sleep if you are not already sleeping that is

Healing Zzzs

I hope these bedtime rituals help you get the sleep that you need to start the process of healing. Remember that things will not always feel this way. See some of the articles for additional support with sleep