Sleeping After A Breakup Is Often Impossible. Here's Why

Breakups can take a terrible toll. Even if you knew it was coming or it was mutual, it doesn't matter. Your life is now different and the person who was by your side is gone. Trying to navigate the emotions that come with such a loss can be difficult, and your mental and emotional health gets the brunt of it.

One of the things that can come after a breakup is acute insomnia. This type of insomnia usually doesn't last any longer than a few months and is often caused by external stressors — meaning a breakup is exactly the sort of thing that can result in acute insomnia. Although it may be short-lived, not being able to sleep can make a breakup even harder. It can lead to irritability, impaired memory and judgment, drastic mood swings, and can increase your stress hormones even more than they've already increased due to the breakup. Sleep deprivation is no joke and something that you should talk to your doctor about if it lasts more than a few months.

But considering the fact that at least when you're asleep you don't have to deal with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with a breakup, why is it that sleep is so impossible when your heart has been broken? There are a few reasons.

Stress keeps you awake

A breakup is stressful. It may not seem like the type of thing that would induce stress, but it does and its effects can be devastating. With a breakup comes mental and physical pain, both of which can be exhausting. Although exhaustion can cause stress on its own, the stress that comes with a lack of sleep is amplified because sleep deprivation causes its own helping of stress due to the increase of cortisol in the body — cortisol being the stress hormone. 

Cortisol can increase blood sugar, speed up the heart, and take feelings of anxiety to new levels. You're inundated with stress upon stress, and it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders all day long and all night long. With all these things pretty much ganging up against you, it's no wonder sleep is literally but a dream after a breakup.

You're experiencing withdrawal

When we fall in love, we feel high. In fact, the high that comes with love has often been compared to the high that comes with cocaine. While riding that high during your relationship may be all well and good, making you feel like you're on cloud nine most of the time, when the love is taken away, you're going to crash. Not only are you in the throes of despair, but now you're also facing withdrawal from your addiction to being in love.

"When a couple goes through a breakup, the brain experiences massive withdrawal symptoms almost identical to a heroin addict quitting cold turkey," licensed psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D. tells Elite Daily. "After a breakup, people should expect withdrawal symptoms for roughly six months and increase their self-care and social support during this season."

It might sound silly or even impossible, but when you consider all the hormones that are at play when you're in love, then you immediately decrease them or subtract them all together, withdrawal is inevitable. When our body becomes accustomed to anything that affects the brain, even antidepressants, for example, taking it away is going to leave your body craving what was lost. Those cravings and the physical symptoms that come with withdrawals are going to do whatever they can to keep you awake. 

Your dopamine isn't being fed

When someone goes through a breakup, neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin decrease. The problem with this is that these hormones are necessary for feelings of happiness and pleasure. When you eliminate those feel-good feelings, sadness can give way to depression and depression can stand in the way of getting a good night's sleep.

According to a study published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, about 75% of those who suffer from depression experience symptoms of insomnia. The reason for this is that depression causes sleep disturbances so getting proper shuteye can be a real struggle. But the issue with this is, like stress feeding off a lack of sleep and exacerbating the stress one feels after a breakup, depression and lack of sleep do the same. Depression interferes with sleep, then lack of sleep causes more feelings of depression. It can be a vicious cycle with no end in sight. 

You have less oxytocin

Oxytocin — the love hormone — is a big part of relationships. It's there to create a bond between partners, drive them wild with desire, then when the attachment stage of falling in love hits, oxytocin is there to keep that love going strong. But, similar to decreased levels of dopamine, a body without oxytocin is a body that hurts because what was once there to protect it from stress is gone. Now stress and anxiety can run rampant because of your breakup.

Although there are many reasons why someone might not be able to sleep after a breakup, more than anything it comes down to increased levels of stress that develop out of what the mind and body are experiencing hormonally. Stress, if not monitored or taken care of, can have detrimental effects including negatively affecting the immune system and even altering the brain, according to research. While there's no easy way to get through a breakup and you have to just give it time, if your inability to sleep becomes all-consuming and interferes with your ability to function, then it's time to call your doctor. They can usually prescribe medication that will help you until you get on the other side of the breakup.