A good sleep heals both physical and emotional wounds. Falling asleep after a breakup is often easier said than done, though.
Usually, the reason for our lack of sleep after a split is being unable to calm our minds down enough to allow us to rest. We obsess over what we could have done better, how things could have been, or what we should have changed.
There are some ways to make the process easier to bear, though. We’ll go through some tips and tricks to help you sleep better after a breakup. These will help you stay as healthy as possible during this stressful time.
Effects of a Breakup on the Body & Mind
Breaking up with someone after any length of time together can be a traumatic experience. Trauma often has both physical and mental effects. A relationship split can definitely be called a traumatic experience.
Regardless of whether it was unexpected or you initiated it, the effects can be similar.
To know how best to combat the side effects of a breakup, we need to understand two things:
- What the body goes through during this kind of stress
- What the mind goes through during an event such as a breakup
If anyone tells you the physical effects of a breakup are all in your head… They’re right to a small degree, but you probably should find new friends.
There are definite and harmful physical side effects of going through a separation. While the root of these physical things may be mental, they are quite tangible. There’s no denying that they are legitimate by-products that can be clearly felt and seen.
They should be treated with the same seriousness as if there was no breakup involved!
Not being able to sleep is a common occurrence after breaking up. Mostly, it’s because our mind is so busy running through the events that we just can’t power down enough to rest.
Sometimes the opposite is true. All we want to do is sleep, because when we’re asleep we don’t have to think. We may struggle to wake up, and have no energy at all to get out of bed.
Either way, whether sleep is scarce or you’re doing a lot of it, it’s likely to be different from your normal, healthy sleep.
Lack of Appetite
Many of us hold a lot of our tension and anxiety in our lower abdomen. This means that when we’re stressed it affects our eating.
Common symptoms are nausea, the inability to keep our food down, or a total lack of hunger.
Skipping a meal here or there or eating less for a few days is not necessarily a bad thing. Drastically changing your eating habits, though, could lower your immune system. This, in turn, could open you up to bigger health issues.
Lack of Energy
You may be sleeping too much or too little in the days following a breakup. Either way, you’re likely to feel listless and unusually exhausted in the days and weeks after a relationship ends.
Struggling to eat will also affect your energy levels, so you’ve basically got the worst of two worlds here.
Besides less sleep (or less effective sleep) and less food, your body is also going through a bit of a chemical storm. Your cortisol levels are high, to support your body’s fight-or flight response. But when neither fight nor flight happens, it can leave you feeling drained.
Cold or Flu Symptoms
When your body is short on sleep and healthy nutrition, it’s easy for your immune system to let germs in by accident.
You’re likely to feel run-down and tired. You may also have some common symptoms such as a sore throat, tight chest, body aches, and sinus problems.
Because you aren’t getting proper sleep or nutrition, the healing process doesn’t work as well. These symptoms can stick around longer than they would normally.
A breakup, no matter which side of it you’re on, can be mentally exhausting and increase stress.
Post-breakup feelings have been described as similar to mourning the death of a loved one. It is a loss, after all, and we need to grieve it.
The mental effects of a relationship ending can last far longer than the physical ones. Our brains are incredibly suggestible, so our mental health can be affected for years to come.
Some common mental issues that can pop up after a breakup include:
When our solid, stable routine and lifestyle is suddenly taken away, it can throw us for a loop.
Whether you’d been dating for a few months or a few decades, an integral part of your life has disappeared. You’re left trying to fit the remainder of your life back together.
The magnitude of anxiety can depend on a few things. Did you live together or apart? Are there kids involved? Did the two of you share financial responsibilities?
Some common specific anxieties could be:
- Financial Stress
If you and your ex shared financial responsibilities, you may have some money stress. You could find yourself needing to shuffle your finances around to cover everything.
You may have to give up certain things and start from scratch, like if you paid rent together and now you’re moving out.
Or, you could suddenly be spending much more money than you used to. This could happen if your partner moves out and leaves you to cover the entire rent.
- Uncertainty for the Future
If you had plans for the future with this person, suddenly your years are wide open. You may not know where to start building up your own future again, or what plans or dreams you have apart from your ex.
This can lead to some real anxiety. We tend to think that as adults we should have it all figured out, and if it changes we should be able to adjust quickly.
This anxiety can be worsened by the fact that we no longer have our special person supporting us.
A relationship breaking down can be a huge catalyst for very self-destructive thinking. No matter who did what or who left whom, your own brain can start to play tricks on you and make you think things like:
- I’m not good enough
- I’ll never find someone else
- I can’t trust anyone ever again
Of course, this is just the hurt talking. You’re still perfectly worthy of all the goodness and love in life. If you’re looking for a sign that that’s true, this is it!
How Do These Affect Your Sleep?
The mental effects of breaking up can have a disastrous effect on your sleep.
Struggling To Fall Asleep
Your brain may just be too wound up to shut down and let you rest. This can be incredibly frustrating if you’re tired and feel like you need sleep.
Waking Up During The Night
If you do manage to fall asleep, you may be waking up more frequently during the night. This can be due to physical symptoms from the breakup, or simply a restless mind. An increase in nightmares is also common.
An Increase in Nightmares
The subconscious mind deals with things in unexpected ways. Your feelings about the breakup may manifest themselves in some scary ways in your dreams.
This is normal when the mind is grappling with serious things. There’s no need to be alarmed, but it can definitely disrupt your sleep.
7 Tips For Falling Asleep After a Breakup
All of these won’t necessarily work for everyone. There should be at least one that you respond well to and that helps you fall asleep after a breakup.
Journal Before Bed
Writing down your thoughts before lying down to sleep can be more helpful than you may realize. It’s kind of like purging yourself of all the crazy stuff going on in your brain so you can lie down with a clearer head.
It’s really easy too. All you need is paper or a book, a pen or pencil, and 5 to 10 minutes of uninterrupted time.
Here are some tips to make journaling work for you:
Don’t Hold Back
Write out exactly what you’re thinking. If you need to add a couple of swear words in, go for it! Don’t worry about how it sounds or the deeper meaning involved. Nobody else is going to read it, anyway.
Let your emotions flow during this process too. If you want to cry, then let the tears flow. If you’re angry, beat the heck out of a pillow. The point of putting your words down is that you leave the emotions with them so you can get a good rest.
Make Sure You Won’t Be Interrupted
Lock yourself away to do this. Let your family know, if needs be, so that you can do your journaling all by yourself.
Nothing breaks a great flow of word-purging like someone bursting in halfway through!
Don’t Read Yesterday’s Entry
Reading the negative stuff you wrote yesterday will hamper your progress today.
It can bring up all those same emotions again. Even if you’re feeling better today, going over old stuff may trigger something you don’t want coming back.
Don’t Medicate - Use Natural Remedies
It can be incredibly tempting to take a couple of sleeping pills not prescribed to you and drift off to oblivion. While oblivion sounds lovely, this can very quickly become a habit. It can lead to some serious complications such as addiction and mental illness.
There are plenty of great natural remedies to calm anxiety and help induce sleep. They’re pretty easy to get hold of so give them a try if you’re struggling to nod off.
Lavender is one of the best herbs for sleep. You can drink it in a tea, burn incense, or use a few drops of essential oils in your bath or behind your ears before bed.
Just like lavender, chamomile can be steeped in hot water for a sleep-inducing herbal tea. You can also use it as an essential oil, or burn incense. It works wonders for calming and easing tension.
CBD Supplement or Oil
This may be a slightly more controversial one, but it really shouldn’t be. A CBD supplement contains a group of chemicals that are found in cannabis, but omits the one that gives you a high.
These supplements or oils are highly effective for many things, including anxiety relief. CBD also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a great health boost all round.
Pay Attention To Your Diet
Even if your appetite isn’t great, you’ll need to make sure that the food you do eat will promote health and not destroy it.
Eat Nutrient-Dense Food
During a breakup, your body reacts similarly to being subjected to physical pain. This means it starts releasing all kinds of hormones to try and combat that. The result is often raised blood glucose levels.
Eating food packed with sugar can raise these even higher, which becomes dangerous.
Although eating sugary things might be extremely tempting, you’d do better to stay away from it. Go with fruits, vegetables, and protein.
Take Your Vitamins
Vitamins D and B will help boost your mood. These two vitamins get serotonin and dopamine production going again.
Vitamin C is always a great choice for improving the immune system. It’s a good idea to start supplementing with this as soon as you can. Aim for 1000mg a day!
Dehydration can sour your mood, reduce your energy levels, and alter rational thoughts.
Eating high-water veggies and fruits and drinking the good ol’ 8 glasses of water a day will help.
Exercise - Even If Just A Little
If you’ve just gone through a traumatic breakup you may feel like you’ll never have energy again.
Exercise can improve not only your mood, but your immune system too. You should be aiming to get at least a little bit in daily.
We don’t mean walking to the bathroom and back. Here are some easy, relaxed ideas for getting in a little workout:
- Walk around the block (or around the yard if you can’t manage the block)
- Clean the house (or your room)
- Take the dog for a walk
- Do some gardening
- Try out a cardio workout on YouTube (if you’re feeling brave)
Try Essential Oils or Incense To Relax
These sweet scents can help you calm down, de-stress, and ease the tension in your muscles. These effects will, in turn, give you a better night’s rest.
You can go for any scent that works for you, but some of the most common and well-used ones for sleep include:
- Valerian root
There are a few great ways to use essential oils:
- Invest in an oil burner and burn them with a little water
- Sprinkle a few drops into your bath
- Leave a couple of drops on your pillow
- Rub some on our temples and behind your ears before going to bed
This one may be one of the harder things to do when you’re in a state of depression after a split. If you can stick with it, though, you’ll find it has great benefits, not only for sleep but for emotional healing too.
You don’t even need to set aside much time in your day to meditate. You can sit for 5 minutes before you get out of bed or before you lay your head down for the night.
To get the best benefits out of it, including the positive effects it will have on your sleep, there are a few things you should work at:
This is not a quick fix. Meditation only has much benefit if it’s done long-term, so you’ll need to commit to doing it every day for at least 21 days. That should get you into a good habit.
If you really can’t manage it every day, you can use it when you’re feeling particularly anxious or panicked. But we recommend building a practice out of it!
You don’t need to meditate for an hour before it starts to do good things for you.
Start with 5 minutes a day. If you start to find that really easy, move up to 10, and so on. You also don’t need to go all out and get candles and incense and build yourself a meditation altar or anything.
Just sit for 5 minutes before you get out of bed, focus on your breathing, and repeat some positive affirmations for the day ahead. It really is that simple!
Don’t Try Not To Think
Meditating is not about emptying your mind. Focus on your breathing (counting breaths helps a lot). When thoughts arrive, simply observe them as if you’re observing a stranger passing you on the street.
Let them pass, and carry on counting. Don’t get bogged down in heavy thoughts!
Use Meditation Music
Meditation music or binaural beats can help immensely. They contain tones that can change your brainwaves and promote healing and calm.
Binaural beats are actually a really easy form of self-therapy. It’s also a lot easier to keep your mind from going crazy when you have a tone to focus on.
Find A Healthy Distraction
Sometimes the best distraction from destructive behavior is… another, healthier distraction.
This one is pretty simple.
- Notice when you’re getting lost in destructive thoughts, anxiety or depression
- Get up and go do something else.
It sounds silly, but distraction can be a wonderful form of relief.
Some easy things to do when you’re looking for a distraction include:
- Baking (for the whole family, or friends)
- Reading a great book
- Watching inspirational videos on YouTube
- Getting some puppy or kitty cuddles
- Doing something creative
Things NOT to do:
- Online shopping
- Anything you and your SO would have done together
- Text your ex!
Bonus Tips If You’re Not Used To Sleeping Alone
If you’re used to sleeping next to your partner, it can be especially hard falling asleep after breaking up.
Here are a couple of ideas to help make the bed feel less empty:
Sleep In The Middle of The Bed
Generally, couples each have a side of the bed that they sleep on. Continuing to sleep on your side can make it more noticeable that there’s nobody on the other side.
Sleeping in the middle of the bed may sound weird. But, it can help remove that association of someone being on the other side of the bed.
It will just take a few nights to get used to this. If you feel like there’s too much space around you, simply place a pillow behind your back.
Get A Sleep Buddy
We’re talking about a teddy bear, in case you had any other ideas. Or a pet, but that’s a bigger investment!
Having something soft and fluffy to cuddle can be extremely comforting. Sometimes, a pillow just won’t cut it.
Falling asleep after a breakup can be frustratingly hard to do. This can have an effect on every other aspect of life - your health, your productivity, and your energy.
Thankfully, the above sleep hacks can really make a difference.
They can be used alone or all together and will make your sleep easier to come by. In turn, they will help keep you mentally and physically healthy as you navigate the beginning of this new chapter of your life. You got this!