12 Powerful Solutions For When You Can’t Sleep After A Breakup

January 17, 2021
By Max Jancar

When I was still a men's dating coach in 2016, I took a local client under my wing. He wanted to meet more people but didn't have the energy to do it, primarily because of a harmful habit he formed in response to his breakup.

He'd basically turned into an insomniac - he struggled to fall asleep each night because of endless thoughts of his ex-girlfriend, who dumped him about a year before I started coaching him. 

So my job was first to help the poor guy get over his ex and then focus on teaching him how to successfully attract and date women. 

After consulting with him for about three weeks, he informed me about an odd nightmare. He dreamt of calling his ex in the middle of the night and professing his undying love, only to hear her new husband telling him to fuck off on the other side. 

We both chuckled when he told me this story. 

But here's the kicker. It turned out that my client's nightmare wasn't actually a dream. It was a reality. He really did call his ex, but he was so sleep-deprived that he overlooked the true nature of the whole event. And we both found this out days after the incident. 

This time, only I chuckled. It was unprofessional.

So yeah, if anyone wants to become a breakup consultant, that's gonna be a typical day. 

While I find the impact of sleepless nights on breakup survivors amusing, I assume you don't feel the same way about it. In fact, you're probably not having a good time right now.

If that's so, don't worry, this listicle has got you covered. It will outline 5 scientifically proven ways you can get a good night's rest despite your vicious breakup and additional 7 tips on how to take your sleep-game even further.

1. EXERCISE BEFORE BED

Rigorous exercise before sleep, without a doubt, improves one's overall sleep quality. Multiple studies have proved this, but let's go over the top 3 I found.

The first (from the Journal of Physiotherapy) consisted of 305 testing participants who spent the next 10 to 16 weeks in an exercise program comprised of moderate-intensity aerobic training and high-intensity resistance training.

The second (from the Journal of sleep medicine) has done virtually the same test as the first. The only difference is that all the participants had insomnia. 

The third and last study (from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry) is slightly different from our previous two. The main objective was to investigate how exercise and depression correlate. The experts who conducted it only found that exercise equates to better sleep later in their research, (as it seems) by accident.

As I previously stated, all the above studies lead to the same conclusion. 

Any form of exercise, especially one performed in the evening, improves your sleep quality. And when your sleep quality improves, so does your overall mood and even the quality of life. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get some exercise. It can be anything you fancy. 

When I was going through my most horrific breakup, I filled my time with jogging and casual running, with a sprint or two thrown in between to give my body a shock. I also found that this form of activity is most preferred among my breakup recovery clients.

As a bonus tip, try combining 10mg of melatonin with a rigorous late-evening exercise when you can't sleep after a breakup. I've read another study where experts proved that it helps people improve their sleep quality.

2. Relaxation techniques

There are numerous relaxation techniques out there: yoga, tai-chi, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, qi-gong, sleep music/sounds, sleep stories, humming, screaming/laughing your frustrations away, jokes, affirmations, visualizations, 4-7-8 breathing, and more.

To my knowledge, all of these healing modalities work. At least for some people. But I would be a charlatan if I told you that I could teach them all.

Well, I can't. I don't even believe in half of them.

So here's what I'm going to do. I will go over only the three relaxation techniques that I have tried, saw, or got results with and successfully taught in the past - basically, the ones I'm most confident in. These are meditation, qi-gong, and sleep music/stories.

MEDITATION

Considering I already wrote a full guide on meditation in my article on getting over an ex, I won't go over it again. 

But I will add that I've been recently experimenting with a guided meditation. It's like regular meditation, but you have someone, in my case that's Jeff Warren, telling you what to focus on in the background. 

Ultimately, I'm shocked I benefited so much in terms of focus from guided meditations. So, I recommend you give them a try.

Qi-gong 

As stated by Oxford Languages, Qi-gong is an ancient Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control. Think of it as meditation, but with movement and an extra dose of ninja-like-charm. 

And while I won't explain the spiritual background of the practice, primarily because I find it utter dogshit, I will explain what's actually studied - to my surprise, there's a lot of it.

I've found studies ranging from 1964 to recent years, all reporting Qi-gong's numerous physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. The top, most commonly mentioned ones are lowered stress, lower blood pressure, lower anxiety, and of course, better sleep.

However, do note that most of the studies on Qi-gong have minuscule test groups. Thus, the results probably aren't always accurate. Or at least, not as accurate as they could be. 

If you'd like to read research qi-gong for yourself, start with the Qigong Institute. It's a collection of studies on the subject, and it's where I did my research. 

But anyhow, you're probably wondering how one performs Qi-gong? 

While there are numerous ways you can do it, here's the absolute beginner approach:

Environment: Head outside, barefoot, preferably under the sun, somewhere in nature. People often perform Qi-gong in that kind of environment. It's all part of the practice. Alternatively, if it's raining or cold, you can perform Qi-gong indoors.

Posture: Like with meditation, your posture should be open and relaxed, but not like you're about to fall asleep. Meaning keep your spine straight while you stand. Don't slouch! Keep your shoulders and back and your neck and hips relaxed. And while you're trying this out, simultaneously let your face muscles loosen. It's where we store most day-to-day stress.

BreathingStart by placing your palms on your belly. According to Kenneth S. Cohen, the proper way to breathe in Qi-gong is through your nose. So do it, and allow your abdomen to expand as your lungs fill with oxygen. Then exhale, and let your abdomen slowly contract and settle. Now, repeat this motion for 10 to 30 minutes.

Naturally, if you have a cold or a blocked nose, use your mouth instead or a combination of both. And keep in mind that your breathing needs to be deep, long, and slow, but most importantly, not forced.

As you become accustomed to this beginner version of Qi-gong, try incorporating some movement into your practice. I would start with this youtube video:

Warning: The Video is spiritual, but the instructions of the various Qi-gong movements are great.

And if you'd like to learn how to perform qi-gong in all its glory in detail, I recommend you read: The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing - by Ken Cohen.

Sleep music

Sleep music is are slow-tempo and relaxing songs often filled with ambient noise, white noise, binaural beats, or nature sounds. Like all the above relaxation methods, It's proven to enhance your sleep quality, but then again, not always.

Sometimes you just might have a bad day, and listening to sleep music won't help you calm down at all. But other times, sleep music might hit you like the classic knock out a napkin to mouth and nose. 

Therefore, I recommend you experiment with sleep music for about a week or two, then analyze your results and decide if the whole practice is still worth pursuing. 

And while you're at it, you can also experiment with sleep stories, which personally helped me out a lot when I couldn't sleep after my breakup, mainly due to nightmares

3. BUY A WHITE-NOISE MACHINE

Another cool solution you can try when you can't sleep after a breakup is buying and using a white noise machine. It's a simple device that transmits calming white noise or static. 

One of the most popular ones is the Marpac Dohm Classic. But you can always use free alternatives like MyNoise.net or a youtube video like this one: 

4. change your diet

Another way you can enhance your sleep is by changing your diet. In fact, diet and sleep are heavily correlated.

If you cut out all (or most) of the high-fat, sugary, and wheat-based products like bread and pasta, your sleep quality will improve over time. Primarily as a side-effect of the more stable emotional foundation, which you also develop and strengthen by having a healthy diet.

5. Use medication to ease insomnia after a breakup

If you've tried every sleep tip on this guide for at least two to three weeks, I would start thinking about medication. Especially if you've developed a case of severe insomnia. But be sure to use it only as a last resort. 

According to a study comprised of 2000+ individuals, sleep-medication will increase your mental quality of life but decrease your physical quality due to its adverse effects.

HOW TO SLEEP EVEN BETTER

Once you've got your sleep taken care of, you're probably going to want to improve it even further. At least that's the case with most of my readers, who are avid subscribers to self-improvement.

If that's you - if you want to be more productive and focused the next morning, here are 7 'hacks' that you can implement in your life that helped me out immensely. 

Note: Even though these tips are catered toward people who got their sleep in order, you can also try them out even if you still can't sleep after a breakup.

1. Have a sleep routine: This is is one of the most simplistic 'sleep-hacks' anyone can give you. Just go to sleep and wake up at the same time throughout the weeks.

For example, I try my best to get ready for sleep - be in bed, with the lights out and phone away from me - at 9:30 pm. And I always have my alarm set to 5:15 am. And I've kept the same schedule for about a year now and it helps my productivity a lot. So, figure out your sleep schedule and then stick to it.

2. Sleep in low-temperature: Setting your room temperature to below 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) is proven to increase sleep quality. 

3. Blackout curtains: Blackout curtains or shades do exactly what you would think. They block most if not all sunlight that could make its way into your eyes in the morning and thus grant you better sleep.

They also protect you from UV rays and shield your furniture from sun damage and fading. But I, and probably most other people, mostly use them to get better sleep.

4. Magnesium supplements: Magnesium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in nearly every aspect of your health, including sleep. Most health professionals and experts recommend using these supplements to treat a variety sleep disorders, all from insomnia to daytime-falling-asleep.

5. Use tungsten lights: Make sure you have tungsten bulbs in your bedroom, not LED's or fluorescent ones. They tend to spun your nervous system into panic mode, and therefore disrupt your sleeping patterns.

6. Buy a weighted blanket: The last better sleep tip I recommend is buying a weighted blanket. It's like a standard blanket but weights more. Gosh, who knew!

Most experts advise you chose one that's about 10 percent of your body weight. So if you're 80kg (176 pounds), you should get an 8kg (17.6 pound) blanket.

But sometimes, this kind of blanket would cost you a kidney and a half, so if you don't have much cash saved up, there is a way to cheat the system. Put three to five regular blankets into a large sheet, then close everything off. Bam!

7. Avoid synthetic sheets and blanket/pillow covers: Rather opt in for linen or full-cotton ones. And when it comes to pillows I recommend you grab the goose-down feather pillows for instance. (Amazon)

Ultimately, there's also a dark side to all the madness I've shared with you till now. Sometimes the more you try to force yourself to fall asleep, the less likely you are actually to fall asleep. This is because worrying about sleep habits, in addition to your ex-partner, could make you way more overwhelmed than you're already.

The best way to avoid this phenomenon is by taking the above tips one at a time.

For instance, try doing some evening exercise for at least a week before incorporating mediation into your evening ritual. But if both of these activities don't pose a challenge, by all means, do them simultaneously. 

All I'm trying to say is take it easy. Don't become neurotic. Don't try to cram every sleep hack and tip you can find into your day. You only need one sleep-improving activity that works for you to get consistent quality shut-eye's. Simplicity is key.

Footnotes

Cover photo by Svetlana Aleynikova

Cao Y, Zhen S, Taylor AW, Appleton S, Atlantis E, Shi Z. Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1354. Published 2018 Sep 21. doi:10.3390/nu10101354

Sasai T, Inoue Y, Komada Y, Nomura T, Matsuura M, Matsushima E. Effects of insomnia and sleep medication on health-related quality of life. Sleep Med. 2010 May;11(5):452-7. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2009.09.011. Epub 2010 Apr 8. PMID: 20381419.

Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104-111. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0301

Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Med. 2010 Oct;11(9):934-40. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 Sep 1. PMID: 20813580; PMCID: PMC2992829.

Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Med. 2010 Oct;11(9):934-40. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 Sep 1. PMID: 20813580; PMCID: PMC2992829.

Mohamed Cheikh, Omar Hammouda, Nawel Gaamouri, Tarak Driss, Karim Chamari, Ridha Ben Cheikh, Mohamed Dogui & Nizar Souissi (2018) Melatonin ingestion after exhaustive late-evening exercise improves sleep quality and quantity, and short-term performances in teenage athletes, Chronobiology International, 35:9, 1281-1293, DOI: 10.1080/07420528.2018.1474891


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