Although the world is no longer immune to the reality of divorce, the idea and stigma that goes along with it are still touchy and difficult to process. Whether your divorce was expected or not, learning to live your life on this unknown path will come with many hurdles – some of which you may not have considered before.
One question that quickly requires a solution is what you do when it’s time for bed. For many cohabitators, sleeping next to your partner each night goes without saying because it’s part of married life. While figuring out how to sleep alone may feel like you’re going backward, it’s merely a process of redeveloping your ability to feel safe and comfortable by yourself again.
For some people, this may be easier said than done. As the day ends, the sun begins to set, and the world around you becomes quiet, here’s how you can learn to get through it – one night at a time.
Learn to Sleep Alone After Divorce
Regardless of your circumstances, with separation comes a bit of a grieving process. While you’re going through the realization and acceptance of sleeping alone, remember that each person heals and moves forward at a different pace. There is no correct way to get yourself there, as long as you take the first steps.
Create A New Routine
The chances are that you had a previously set evening routine, consisting of joint activities such as eating dinner together, brushing teeth, or reading in bed. Now that you have the opportunity to sleep in solitude, you also have the chance to create a new routine that suits who you are as an individual and what you want.
Take a moment to consider what would really help you settle into the evening for bed, whether it’s drinking tea, having a bath, or completing a calming activity that’s unique to you. Creating a new bedtime routine will help to get you out of your old night time mentality and habits. This will make sleeping alone a fresh experience, instead of something that you just have to cope with doing by yourself.
Some new things to include in your routine could be:
- Limiting screen time and social media – Too often, we find ourselves staring at other people’s lives through our phones, which can wreak havoc on our mental stability and our sleep. Allowing yourself some time to be free of the world around you will enable you to be at peace with yourself and will minimize the need to compare your life to others.
- Start a journal – In the middle of everything, it can be hard to vocalize or describe precisely what you’re feeling, which means that you end up taking it to bed with you. Spend a few moments before bed each night journaling your thoughts and your process. This will give you a way to release some of the feelings from the day, and will also give you a way to track your journey and see how much progress you have made.
- Get in on whichever side of the bed that you want – One thing that comes with sleeping alone is that there is no side. Don’t force yourself to sleep in any particular place, because the whole bed is your side. We get stuck in the marital norms of “He likes to sleep facing the door” or “She has to sleep closer to the window,” but there’s nothing to say now that you can’t sleep right in the middle if you want to. Give yourself permission to not be afraid of your bed and remember that you don’t need to be mindful of anyone’s space except your own.
Get Out of Bed
And not just out of bed, get out of your house. Many times, the contributors to sleeplessness include stress from the situation as well as a lack of mental and physical stimulation.
Often, just after a separation, we find it easier to stay indoors or stay in bed, only leaving when we need to. For many people, this is the time that they have the most difficulty sleeping. Unfortunately, being inactive makes it difficult for our circadian rhythm to process the difference between being awake and going to sleep. As time goes on and acceptance begins to happen, your quality of sleep will improve. (Source)
To encourage your sleep clock to keep working correctly, you’ll need to find ways to get into the sun and get your body moving. It isn’t new advice to suggest taking up a hobby, heading to the gym, or joining a social group. This is because these things work – not only to get you back out into society but also to help you wind down.
Make Changes to Your Sleep Arrangement
If you have kept joint furniture in the divorce, the bedroom is an excellent place to create a new space. Rather than keeping the same bed, sheets, or even bedroom layout – replace as much as you financially can.
The idea is that when you go to sleep alone each night, you don’t want it to feel as though you are going to sleep in “our” bed, but instead, you are going to sleep in “your” bed. Whether we realize it or not, years of sharing a bed with another human can leave lasting memories or feelings. With these feelings comes attachment.
By at least purchasing fresh, never shared linen, or moving the bed to an opposite wall, you can begin to view the bed and sleeping as your own space.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
After a divorce, when the feelings of loneliness are ever-present, alcohol often sounds like a good choice of companion. Especially in the early days, you want to remember that alcohol is a depressant. Not only will it make you feel worse, but it also inhibits sleep. While you may feel like it helps to drown the silence or makes you fall asleep faster, the quality of sleep that you get will not help you feel rested.
Alcohol will also prevent you from facing the reality of being by yourself. Drinking it away today will not help tomorrow. Get a head start on learning out how to sleep alone by beginning this evening, not next week.
In addition to alcohol, you also want to avoid caffeine too close to bedtime. In a time when your mind is already on alert and finding it difficult to sleep, adding caffeine will deter you from achieving a peaceful rest.
Ask For Help
Even though you may feel alone, there is a massive community of people out there who either have gone through a situation that is similar to yours, or who are currently going through it. Use these people as a resource and encouragement to persevere. Online and in-person support groups are useful for more sleep suggestions and in other areas of your new life that you will need to navigate.
Additionally, if you aren’t already seeing a therapist, it may be worth a consult to find out if therapy can help with feelings of being alone as well as learning to adjust to sleeping alone. Your doctor can also prescribe a sleep aid as a short-term solution to promote the quality of rest that you are missing.
Keep in mind that quality rest is not only good for your mental state, but it’s also vital for your health. Studies show that individuals who suffer from extended sleep disturbances (including those going through marital separation) are at greater risk of having complications such as high blood pressure. (Source)
You owe it to yourself to maintain the quality of sleep that you deserve after your divorce. But remember that just because you can learn to sleep alone, it doesn’t mean that you are alone.