Sleep Troubles May Complicate the Grieving Process

Sleep Troubles May Complicate the Grieving Process

Those who have persistent trouble sleeping may have an especially difficult grieving process after the death of a loved one, a new study co-authored by a University of Arizona researcher finds.

Most people who lose a close friend or family member will experience sleep troubles as part of the grieving process, as the body and mind react to the stress of the event, said study co-author Mary-Frances O'Connor, a professor in the UArizona Department of Psychology.

But O'Connor and her collaborators found that those who had persistent sleep challenges before losing someone were at higher risk for developing complicated grief after a loss. Complicated grief is characterized by a yearning for a lost loved one so intense and persistent that it disrupts a person's daily functioning. It occurs in 7-10% of bereaved people, O'Connor said.

"We know that, for many people, experiencing the death of a loved one is followed by sleep disruption – not surprisingly, given how stressful it is to lose a loved one," said O'Connor, who directs the university's Grief, Loss and Social Stress Laboratory. "We also know that people who have a more prolonged grief disorder tend to have persistent sleep problems. That led us to ask: What if the reverse is possible? Could it be that people who have had sleep disruption and then experience the death of a loved one are more likely to develop complicated grief?"

O'Connor and her collaborators at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands and the Phoenix VA Health Care System looked at data from the multiyear Rotterdam Study, which followed a group of middle-aged and older adults over time and looked at various aspects of their physical and mental health.

"We know that, for many people, experiencing the death of a loved one is followed by sleep disruption – not surprisingly, given how stressful it is to lose a loved one," said O'Connor, who directs the university's Grief, Loss and Social Stress Laboratory. "We also know that people who have a more prolonged grief disorder tend to have persistent sleep problems. That led us to ask: What if the reverse is possible? Could it be that people who have had sleep disruption and then experience the death of a loved one are more likely to develop complicated grief?"

Read the full article from UANews here

 

Published Date: 
03/16/2021 - 09:42