- This article has been written and researched by Ana Luiza – a sleep scientist, psychobiologist, and biotechnologist, (Ph.D.) – to ensure the highest content quality and factual accuracy.
Going through the breakup of a romantic relationship can result in stress, depression, anxiety, and a range of emotions that can make it harder for you to get to sleep and stay asleep.
So how can you get good quality sleep after a relationship ends?
The best ways to get to sleep after a breakup are: using natural remedies and essential oils, meditating, exercising daily, having a sleep routine, relaxing with yoga, and listening to calming music – avoid alcohol completely, and only take doctor prescribed sleep medications as a last resort.
The rest of this article expands on the above strategies and gives you 20 techniques in total to help you sleep well as you get over your breakup.
However, if you feel that you are really struggling emotionally, then you should talk to your doctor or a trained therapist to find the best treatment plan for you.
Can’t stop thinking about your ex? Then try these 8 strategies for stopping OCD thoughts.
20 Ways to Get to Sleep After a Breakup
Here are 20 techniques that you can use to help you get to sleep after a breakup:
1: Try Natural Remedies to Calm Down
Natural remedies can invoke feelings of relaxation in your body and mind when you’re trying to get to sleep in the days and weeks after a breakup.
However, before taking any of the natural remedies listed below, you should talk to your doctor first if you are on any existing medications, are pregnant, or have any underlying medical conditions to ensure that there will be no adverse reactions:
- Valerian root.
2: Take Doctor Prescribed Sleep Medications (Last Resort)
If you’re unable to relax using natural remedies and you’re seriously struggling to get to sleep after a week or so, then you should talk to your doctor who may prescribe you with some of the medications listed below to help combat your insomnia.
However, you must NOT self medicate with these substances and they should only been seen as a last resort because they may have side effects or cause addiction/dependency in some individuals, so only take them exactly as advised by your doctor:
- Doxepin (Silenor).
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta).
- Ramelteon (Rozerem).
- Temazepam (Restoril).
- Triazolam (Halcion).
- Zaleplon (Sonata).
- Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist).
- Zolpidem extended release (Ambien CR).
- Suvorexant (Belsomra).
Your doctor may also prescribe melatonin, a natural sleep inducer.
Sleep Medications Can Be Harmful
The sleep medications listed above can cause dependence and are associated with undesired side effects such as:
- Gastrointestinal problems.
- Allergic reactions.
- Memory problems.
- Sleep-related disorders.
- Always consult with a doctor before starting the treatment.
- Never take your sleeping pills with alcohol.
- Avoid driving or operating heavy machines.
3: Try Essential Oils (Lavender Works Best)
A recently published systematic review showed that aroma inhalation therapy significantly improves sleep problems such as insomnia.
The analysis of 34 studies revealed that it is also effective against stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue symptoms.
Lavender oil is the most commonly used and seems to have the most positive influential effect on inducing relaxation and sleep.
The oil comes from the Lavandula angustifolia plant and has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, analgesic, and sedative effects.
There is no recommended dosage; you can breathe in the scent of lavender essential oil or apply it to your skin while doing a massage.
Some people mix it with other oils, such as jojoba or sweet almond, but research has shown that pure oil is more effective.
4: Meditate to Relax the Mind and Body
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that helps you cope with stress and anxiety.
This technique teaches you to be aware, focus on the present moment, and be grateful and compassionate with yourself and others.
You also develop better control of your emotions.
These abilities can make a big difference when you’re dealing with the separation anxiety of a breakup.
Mindfulness meditation can also help you sleep better, as shown in a systematic literature review of 18 randomized controlled clinical trials.
Consider seeking the advice of a trained professional to guide you through the process.
Or put in your earphones and listen to the guided meditation video below:
5: Release Stress With Regular Exercise
Physical activity is not only good for your health, but it can also help you sleep when you are stressed.
Many scientific studies have shown a positive effect of physical exercise on sleep disturbances.
Physically active individuals have fewer complaints of insomnia than sedentary individuals.
The study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that older people (55-84 years) who exercised frequently had fewer sleep complaints than those who exercised less than once a week.
Additionally, moderate to high levels of physical activity are associated with a 56% decrease in insomnia.
When you practice moderate physical activity (walking 30 minutes a day), you fall asleep faster, spend more time in bed, and have less sleep-related anxiety.
Your overall sleep quality gets better too; you spend more time in the deep sleep stage and wake up feeling rested.
Exercise can help you sleep better in the short-term and the long-term.
People who train for six months or more have better sleep quality and efficiency when compared with sedentary people.
They report feeling rested in the morning more frequently and have less depression and anxiety.
Therefore, you should continue exercising after you get over your ex.
6: Follow a Healthy Sleep Routine to Trigger Sleep
Having a regular nightly routine can help your body know when it’s time to go to sleep by triggering your body clock.
Most sleep issues are associated with bad sleep habits and these poor habits can make it even harder to get to sleep when you’re trying to get over a relationship breakup.
Changing these habits is the first step to solving them.
This is why sleep specialists came up with a list of recommendations to ensure you’ll get the best sleep possible.
These recommendations are collectively called ‘sleep hygiene’, and it includes:
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
- Avoiding fatty foods before sleeping.
- Avoiding coffee and alcohol before bed.
- Avoiding stressful situations near bedtime.
- Creating a pleasant sleeping environment (try blacking out your bedroom for better sleep).
- Avoid exposing yourself to bright lights near bedtime.
- Exposing yourself to the sunlight early in the morning.
Here are some additional tips for dealing with insomnia after a breakup:
- If you wake up in the middle of the night, get up and do a calming activity such as reading a book or meditating.
- Don’t look at your watch or smartphone – this will only make you anxious.
- Balance fluid intake at night so you don’t wake up feeling thirsty or having to use the bathroom.
- Avoid thinking about the things you have to do – you can set a time for planning your next day before going to sleep.
7: Keep a Sleep Journal to Improve Sleeping Habits
Keeping a sleep diary can help you identify the possible causes for your insomnia (other than the increase in stress caused by your breakup).
By establishing the reasons, you can reflect and learn how to avoid them.
It can also give your doctor a better picture of your sleeping habits, guiding the treatment plan.
You should include the following information in your sleep journal:
- The time you went to bed.
- The time you fell asleep (approximate).
- The number of times you woke up during the night.
- The time it took for you to fall asleep after waking up.
- The time you woke up in the morning.
- The number of naps you took and the duration of these naps.
- The medications that you used.
- The amount of alcohol and caffeine that you consumed.
8: Improve Your Diet for Better Health and Sleep
You may have noticed how your alertness changes depending on your food and drink choices.
Although there is no proven sleep-promoting diet, your dietary choices influence your weight, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels; thus indirectly improving your sleep.
There is some evidence that certain foods can make you sleepy or promote better sleep.
Examples are grapes, kiwi, tart cherries, malted milk, milk, fatty fish, nuts, and rice.
These foods contain nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that aid in sleep.
Dietitians recommend a balanced diet containing a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, is associated with better sleep.
Additional advice includes avoiding alcohol and caffeine before going to bed; caffeine is stimulant and will keep you awake.
Alcohol disrupts your sleep quality, making you feel terrible the morning after.
Eating heavy food at night is also a bad idea.
It gives you heartburn and acid reflux.
So, forget about getting drunk and eating tons of ice cream to cure your love wounds.
9: Release Tension With Yoga
Yoga is a physical activity, which by itself has a sleep-inducing effect.
One study showed that women who practice yoga have better sleep quality than women who don’t.
Yoga not only helps with sleep but also improves your strength, balance, and flexibility.
It can also improve your mood, reducing anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Another great benefit of yoga is that it can ease your loneliness because it provides an environment for group healing and support.
It is an excellent way of meeting new people too.
But if you can’t get to a yoga class, then try the beginner’s yoga routine in the video below:
10: Give Yourself Time to Heal
You may have heard that time heals everything, right?
It is true, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
When you end a relationship, you go through a grieving process.
You’ll feel sad, angry, and you´ll go into denial.
Until one day, you’ll accept that it was better that way, and naturally, you’ll move on with your life.
Try to live through this process, and if it becomes too difficult to deal with, seek help from your doctor or a trained therapist.
11: Distract Yourself
Many people can’t sleep at night due to ruminating and negative thoughts.
A breakup can give you a reason to obsess about what went wrong in your relationship.
Doing this in bed can keep you awake the whole night.
Finding a relaxing distraction can be an excellent way to shift your mind away from these negative thoughts until you feel sleepy.
Try reading a book, binge-watching a series, doing yoga, or meditating – distractions in the day like studying, working, joining a class, or being with friends can help too.
The options are endless, and I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
12: Create Your Own Daily Routine to Move On
When you live with someone else for a long time, you get used to a certain routine.
Breaking up feels weird at first because you miss not only the person but the things you used to do together.
Did you have to wait for your ex to get home for you to have dinner together?
There is no need for this anymore.
Create your own routine to help you move on.
Try to find the best time for you to wake up, sleep, eat, and exercise.
Enjoy doing the things you want, when you want.
13: Talk to Your Friends and Family to Ease Anxiety
When you’re facing a difficult situation, it’s always comforting to know that you’ll have the people you love by your side.
Don’t hold your feelings in; share them with your friends or family when appropriate.
These are the people who you can trust and that can give you another perspective on the facts.
Let them know whether you’d like to hear their opinion or not.
Sometimes you need a crying shoulder, and that’s ok too.
Let go of all the pain and anger, and you’ll feel lighter when it’s bedtime.
14: Meet New People When You’re Ready
After being alone to reflect and process your feelings, it’s time to move on.
Call your friends for an evening out, a lunch, or a movie night.
Even if you don’t have many friends, make an effort to meet new people.
You can join a gym, an art class, or any group activity that you like.
It can be a fantastic opportunity to make friends, and maybe find someone special.
Socializing is part of human nature, and it can help you heal.
15: Listen to Relaxing Music
Have you ever noticed how music can bring you all kinds of emotions?
Some can make you happy, and others can make you sad, calm, agitated, or focused.
When you’re suffering after a breakup, you can use the power of music in your favor.
For example, there is evidence that listening to calming and relaxing music before going to bed can help you sleep better and fight insomnia symptoms.
For example, music therapy significantly reduced depression levels and improved sleep efficiency in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There is no proven music frequency associated with sleep induction, although many professionals indicate low-frequency sounds (432 Hz).
Research shows that the best music for sleep may be your favorite ones.
Just avoid the ones that make you remember your ex!
Try listening to the low frequency music in the video below to help you drift off:
16: Change Your Sleeping Position to Break Familiarity
Usually, each person of the couple chooses a side of the bed.
Continuing sleeping on your side of the bed could keep you stuck in your last painful frame of reference.
Therefore, try to sleep on the other side or in the middle of the bed, at least until you get used to having the bed only for you.
17: Try a Sleep Buddy Pillow
When you’re in a serious relationship, you get used to sleeping with your loved one by your side.
You may not be able to sleep properly because you miss having someone to cuddle with at night.
A possible solution to this problem would be to use a sleep buddy pillow.
If you have never heard of them, they are U-shaped pillows designed to support your head, neck, and arms, giving you more comfort through the night.
Some extra-large pillows can involve your whole body to make you feel cozy and relaxed.
18: Avoid Alcohol and Other Substances
Drinking and using other substances to forget your ex is a terrible idea.
These substances will only give you a fake and temporary sensation of happiness.
But when you’re sober, you start to feel depressed again.
This vicious cycle never ends, and it can cause dependency.
Avoid suppressing your emotions with drinking or other habits that can harm your health.
Also, alcohol can potentially harm your sleep quality.
Try to avoid alcohol completely after a breakup.
19: Go to a Therapist to Process Your Feelings
If you’re struggling to get over your ex to the point where it’s having a significant impact on your quality of life, you should consider getting professional help.
A trained therapist can help you identify thoughts and emotions that trigger your depression or anxiety.
It can also help you deal with your feelings in a healthier way.
Relieving your anxiety and depression will probably solve your sleep problems.
20: Talk to a Sleep Doctor if Your Insomnia Persists
If none of the tips above worked for you, you may have a more serious problem and should seek medical advice.
A trained sleep doctor may be the best option for you.
They will analyze your medical history and ask for additional tests before closing the diagnosis.
How Breakups Affect Sleep
Below is a short guide that explains how the breakup of a romantic relationship can affect your sleep.
Breakups Can Trigger Sleep Disturbances
One study published in 2009 investigated the effects of a recent breakup of a romantic relationship in 192 university students.
They divided the group into high versus low breakup distress scores.
The high breakup distress group reported that they did not initiate the breakup.
The breakup was sudden and unexpected, which make them feel rejected and betrayed.
Compared with the low distress score group, the high distress score group had more intrusive thoughts, sleep disturbance, depression, and anxiety symptoms.
Breakups Can Trigger Anxiety
A breakup can be emotionally exhausting.
One of the consequences is worrying about the future.
However, anxiety is more than worry.
It manifests through:
- Intrusive thoughts.
- Lack of concentration.
- Pessimism about the future.
- Racing thoughts.
- Fixating thoughts.
Anxiety is connected to sleep problems.
Excess worry and fear make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
At the same time, sleep deprivation worsens anxiety symptoms.
Anxious people tend to ruminate about their problems in bed, keeping them from falling asleep.
Conversely, they feel nervous about not getting to sleep, perpetuating a cycle of sleep problems and mental health issues.
Anxiety can also cause nightmares, which reinforces the fear of going to sleep.
Breakups Can Trigger Depression
Feeling sad, disappointed, or hopeless is a normal reaction after ending a relationship.
Usually, these feelings come and go when you’re facing a challenging situation.
However, when they persist for more than two weeks and start to interfere with your daily life, it can indicate a depressive disorder.
If you identify with the following symptoms, seek medical help.
Depression symptoms include:
- Persistent sadness.
- Irritated mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness or guilt.
- Lack of energy.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Lack of appetite.
The same vicious cycle described for anxiety also happens with depression.
Many depressed people experience sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or excessive diurnal somnolence.
In turn, sleep disorders can exacerbate depression.
Breakups Can Trigger Stress
Breaking up represents a stressful situation in anybody’s life, especially when it involves financial issues, legal battles, kid’s custody, fights, etc.
Stress and sleep problems are closely related.
The more stressed you are, the worse your sleep will be.
And like any other mental health issue, the more sleep-deprived you are, the more stressed you feel.
Highly stressed people are more likely to experience the negative consequences of sleep loss such as:
- Lack of concentration.
Conclusion: Seek Professional Help if Required
A relationship breakdown can be an extremely stressful event in your life.
A relationship leaves marks that are difficult to erase, especially when it involves years of living together.
It is never easy for either party.
This roller coaster of emotions and feelings can cause deeper physical and emotional symptoms, such as stress, anxiety, and depression – negatively affecting your sleep quality.
Luckily, several measures help to reduce these effects so that you can sleep peacefully.
These measures involve giving your mind time to heal, changing your routine, improving your eating habits, practicing physical exercise, talking to your friends and family, meeting new people, meditating, and maintaining healthy sleeping habits.
If none of those tips help, and you’re still suffering, you should seek a therapist and a trained sleep doctor to indicate the best treatment options for you.
Remember that you are not alone in this, and you can always rely on the people who love you.
Keep in mind that it will heal with time, and you’ll be just fine.
Need to calm down before bed? Try these 12 relaxation techniques now.
Sources and References
Mayo Clinic. Adult Health [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/how-a-sleep-diary-can-transform-how-you-feel/art-20342128
NHS. 10 tips to beat insomnia [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-tips-to-beat-insomnia/
National Sleep Foundation. Are sleep aids safe? [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/are-natural-sleep-aids-safe
NCCIH. Melatonin: What You Need To Know [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know
Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J [Internet]. 2019;23:18–41. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30624194
Sleep Foundation. The Best Foods to Help You Sleep [Internet]. 2020. Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/food-and-drink-promote-good-nights-sleep
Passos GS, Poyares DLR, Santana MG, Tufik S, Mello MT de. Is exercise an alternative treatment for chronic insomnia? Clinics (Sao Paulo) [Internet]. 2012;67(6):653–60. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22760906
Swanson LM, Arnedt JT, Rosekind MR, Belenky G, Balkin TJ, Drake C. Sleep disorders and work performance: findings from the 2008 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America poll. J Sleep Res. 2011;20(3):487–94.
Paparrigopoulos T, Tzavara C, Theleritis C, Soldatos C, Tountas Y. Physical activity may promote sleep in cardiac patients suffering from insomnia. Vol. 143, International journal of cardiology. Netherlands; 2010. p. 209–11.
Passos GS, Poyares D, Santana MG, D’Aurea CVR, Youngstedt SD, Tufik S, et al. Effects of moderate aerobic exercise training on chronic primary insomnia. Sleep Med. 2011 Dec;12(10):1018–27.
Cheong MJ, Kim S, Kim JS, Lee H, Lyu Y-S, Lee YR, et al. A systematic literature review and meta-analysis of the clinical effects of aroma inhalation therapy on sleep problems. Medicine (Baltimore) [Internet]. 2021 Mar 5;100(9):e24652–e24652. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33655928
Rusch HL, Rosario M, Levison LM, Olivera A, Livingston WS, Wu T, et al. The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci [Internet]. 2018/12/21. 2019 Jun;1445(1):5–16. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30575050
Wang W-L, Chen K-H, Pan Y-C, Yang S-N, Chan Y-Y. The effect of yoga on sleep quality and insomnia in women with sleep problems: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2020 May;20(1):195.
Blanaru M, Bloch B, Vadas L, Arnon Z, Ziv N, Kremer I, et al. The effects of music relaxation and muscle relaxation techniques on sleep quality and emotional measures among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder. Ment Illn. 2012 Jul;4(2):e13.
Dubey P, Kumar Y, Singh R, Jha K, Kumar R. Effect of music of specific frequency upon the sleep architecture and electroencephalographic pattern of individuals with delayed sleep latency: A daytime nap study. J Fam Med Prim care. 2019 Dec;8(12):3915–9.
Field T, Diego M, Pelaez M, Deeds O, Delgado J. Breakup distress in university students. Adolescence. 2009;44(176):705–27.
NHS. Generalized anxiety disorder [Internet]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/symptoms/
National Sleep Foundation. Anxiety and sleep [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/anxiety-and-sleep#:~:text=Anxiety is frequently connected to,involving insomnia and anxiety disorders.
National Sleep Foundation. Depression and sleep [Internet]. 2021. Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/depression-and-sleep
American Psychology Association. Stress and sleep [Internet]. Available from: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep
No part of this article or website offers medical advice – seek help from a trained medical professional if required.
Image Attribution and Licencing
Main image: ‘Breakup’ by Lepro (Getty Images) – used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.