After my 8-year relationship ended, I couldn't sleep. It turns out I had post-breakup insomnia.

After my 8-year relationship ended, I couldn't sleep. It turns out I had post-breakup insomnia.
  • When my eight year long relationship ended, I had a hard time sleeping by myself.

  • Watching a movie I realized that it's not just me who was struggling with post-breakup insomnia.

  • The stress from ending a relationship can trigger insomnia.

After my eight-year relationship ended, one of my biggest challenges was adjusting to sleeping alone again. I was disappointed in myself for struggling with it for months. I'm a grown woman. Why can't I sleep alone anymore?

I thought it was an isolated case until I was treating my broken heart with romantic comedies, and I ended up rewatching "Something's Gotta Give."

In the movie, Diane Keaton plays the role of Erika Barry, a divorced scriptwriter who explains why she used to miss her ex-husband at night and how she handled it. "Sleeping by myself took some getting used to, but I got the hang of it. You gotta sleep in the middle of the bed. It's absolutely not healthy to have a side when no one has the other side," she says in the movie.

Like Barry, I did not miss my previous relationship but my precious sleep pattern. "Post-breakup insomnia," as some people call this sleep disturbance period, is very common.

Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and author of "Sharing the Covers: Every Couple's Guide to Better Sleep," confirmed this. Troxel told Insider that "there's data to show that relationship breakups or the loss of a partner due to death or separation is a known precipitant of sleep disturbances."

Do we sleep better with a bed partner?

Troxel explained that sleep is a vulnerable state from an evolutionary standpoint, and as humans and social beings, we feel safer through connections with others. We don't usually acknowledge it, but sleep is also a social phenomenon.

"We derive a sense of psychological safety from our social connections, and that's particularly true of a bed partner, so you can imagine the removal of a bed partner to a breakup or a death could increase your feelings of vulnerability at night," said Troxel.

Biological explanations can support that psychological safety. "Oxytocin is the love hormone, and if you feel close and connected with a partner that can help reduce anxiety, it can be stress relieving and calming," she said.

However, research is not conclusive on whether or not we sleep better with a bed partner, and it has been proven that, in many cases, it can be the other way around. "Some people sleep worse when sharing a bed with a partner; there is more movement, and they're more likely to be disrupted," said Troxel. As she mentions in her TED Talk, a snoring partner can also deeply affect a good night's sleep.

Tony Cunningham, director of the Center for Sleeping Cognition at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, agrees. "The reason that you might experience insomnia even short-term sleeping in a different bed, it's primarily psychologically driven and less physiologically driven," he told Insider.

How to deal with insomnia after a breakup

After weeks of horrible nights of bad sleep, I decided to handle my insomnia on my own.

And I did it all wrong. I forced myself into bed and freaked out daily about not getting enough hours of sleep. I scolded myself for not being "mature enough." I moved to two different places and even got myself a new bed partner: a temporary loud snorer. It took me almost a year to finally restore my good sleep pattern.

"One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your experience is totally normal," said Cunningham. After a breakup, the bed becomes a source of stress, "If you're crawling into bed alone, after a long-term relationship, that is, every night, a reminder of the loss of that relationship," he added.

After acceptance, the following step is self-exploration. Barry's advice could be of help. "When you're having insomnia, it's not a bad time to become a little bit of a scientist and try new things, so you could definitely try sleeping in the middle of the bed," said Cunningham.

Following common relaxation practices can be helpful: staying away from screens before bedtime, taking a bath, meditating, and doing something pleasurable. It's a good moment to create new personal routines.

And finally, make sure that you build social connections during the day. Go out with your friends, spend time with people you love, and talk about your feelings. "Taking care of that need for social connection is also really important because our moods are strongly tied to our sleep as well," said Troxel.

I can now proudly say that I sleep very well all alone. This is one of the reasons I am protective of my singlehood. But almost a year of insomnia was probably too long.

Read the original article on Insider