Whether we’ve recently been through a divorce or break-up and find ourselves tossing and turning through the night, or we’re trying out a sleep-cation (that might also be known as ‘sleep divorce’) to get a better night’s sleep away from ‘Snorey McSnorison’, or we’ve found ourselves with a night alone, it can be a real struggle to drift off to slumberland when we’re feeling lonely.
When we’re used to sleeping next to someone, learning to fall asleep alone can be tough - not to mention coping with why we’re now sleeping alone. But waking up feeling groggy after a poor night's sleep can feel unbearable at times, being snappier than usual, maybe shedding a few more tears throughout the day or almost drifting off during the morning video meeting hoping no one else spotted us!
Does loneliness keep us awake?
Feeling lonely may be a cause of sleep difficulties when sleeping alone, as it tends to play on our minds a lot which means thinking, overthinking and more thinking which tends to keep us awake. So here are our top tips to quieten the mind to help us drift off;
In order to fall asleep, we need to feel relaxed, our heart rate and body temperature drop and our brain switches off (not literally, just the conscious thoughts). Reading can help us relax by getting lost in another world, a warm bath with some calming oils might help us feel sleepier, or even watching the latest trashy reality show that provides outrageous but unstimulating entertainment to help us zone out.
Feeling lonely, can set the mind racing, analysing what went wrong, was it something we did, or even if we’ll ever feel good again! This kind of thinking keeps the brain switched on, while journaling is a great way to quieten the mind even just for the evening when we need to get to sleep - write down everything and anything and be totally honest, no one else ever has to see this!
3. Don’t go hungry
We know the heartbreak that occurs post-break-up, or even just from longing for someone we miss (or haven’t met yet), can feel truly sickening and may even see us ditching dinner time. But attempting to fall asleep on an empty stomach can feel almost impossible. New mums and dads know all too well that a full tum and a clean bum are the ideals for a sleeping baby (usually, although it doesn’t always go to plan). We’ll find it much easier to drift off if our brains aren’t still whirring, registering those hunger pangs, even if it’s just a healthy snack to tie us over till breakfast.
4. Connect with loved ones
Feeling lonely can be really difficult to manage, especially while we are socially distanced from all the people we want to hug. Connect with friends and family over the phone, on video calls, or for a socially distanced walk, it might not the romantic connection we were hoping for, or we might feel 2 metres still isn’t quite close enough, but our loneliness will dissolve a little with an oxytocin boost from talking, sharing and caring for others! And if we live with others give them a big hug!
Finding comfort in sleeping alone
Sleeping alone can be tough especially when we’re used to having somebody to lay next to through the night. And it can feel so much worse at night time when we’re no longer distracted by work, kids or chores. Whether we’ve made the decision ourselves, or are trying to come to terms with recent changes to our sleep dynamics, here are our top tips for finding comfort in sleeping alone when the loneliness feels its worst:
1. Set a rise and shine time
Waking up at the same time every day helps us build a routine, and sets us up to start feeling sleepy around the same kind of time in the evening. Sleepiness is a feeling so rather than setting a bedtime and forcing ourselves to sleep (which usually just leads to tossing, turning and frustration), waking up at the same time will see our bodies and brains begin to feel ready for bed more consistently, and make falling asleep that little bit easier.
2. Find a sleep buddy
Not a human, we don’t need to go out and pick a potential candidate to lay next to for us to fall asleep when we’re feeling lonely. But a teddy, a cuddly toy, a super comfy pillow to cuddle up to can stimulate the release of oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) which helps us feel safe and secure, and ultimately help us snooze.
If we’re missing the physical touch, a silky pillowcase can replicate the skin-on-skin contact we get from sleeping with someone, while we might add a spritz of the other’s aftershave or perfume to replicate the emotional contact. If we’ve recently been through a breakup, the last thing we might want to do is use their scent, but we could use another brand to imitate the human scent rather than the particular one used by our ex.
3. Sleep in the middle of the bed
As couples usually have their side of the bed, it can make it more noticeable when they are missing if we continue to sleep on our usual sides. Try sleeping in the middle, it might feel weird or even a bit sad at first but it actually helps us remove that association of someone being on the other side. And if it feels too spacious, pop some pillows either side of us like a pillow-fort-cacoon of comfort.
Reality reminder: We can take advantage of sleeping alone to assemble the perfectly selfish sleep environment, but we cannot switch off those lonely feelings as easily. Adjusting to new circumstances takes time, whether they’re exciting or a little miserable, have patience when approaching new sleep routines and test out what works for us, individually, with help from these expert tips! Sleep well.
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