Do you know how you can use mindfulness meditation to enhance your sleep?
When you wake up in the morning, do you feel refreshed and ready to go? Or you often wake up feeling groggy and grumpy?
Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? If the second set of scenarios are common to you, you have to find ways to improve your sleep pattern.
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Good sleep is important to your wellbeing. It’s as important as water, food, or shelter. Getting sufficient sleep helps heal your body and mind.
However, for some reason, sleep may not always come easily when you need it.
A good night’s rest can change how you interact with the world. It will elevate your mood and improve your concentration.
In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, you can be prevented from tapping into the healing power of sleep by increased feelings of stress and anxiety. You may be among an estimated 30% of Americans who’re known to be regularly sleep-deprived. With regular sleep deprivation, your mood, attention span, and memory are likely to suffer.
Effects of sleeplessness
Chronic sleeplessness can predispose you to health problems such as:
- viral infections
- weight gain
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- mental illness
You’re likely to be more at risk for insomnia if you’re a woman or you’re an older adult.
As you get older, it may often become a little harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even though your sleep pattern may have changed as you become older, your need for sleep doesn’t change.
A good night’s sleep continues to be essential for your good health.
You need quality sleep
Quality sleep is essential for building your body’s defenses against infection, chronic illnesses, and heart disease. It is also essential for keeping you alert and energetic.
Do you have insomnia?
If you do, do you know what triggers your insomnia?
If you have sleep disturbances such as having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, you’re not alone. It’s a problem that affects millions of people in the US and around the world.
If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you’ll need to figure out what you can do to enjoy the satisfaction of having a restful night’s sleep again. This may differ from one person to another, so you need to find out what works for you.
If you don’t sleep well at night, the daytime sleepiness that follows can leave you feeling really lousy. It can sap your day’s productivity, and may even harm your health.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation, also known as mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus your mind on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.
It is a therapeutic technique that can help you get to sleep more quickly without the use of medications. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax your body and mind and help to reduce your stress level.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into worries and concerns about your past or future. It helps you to mentally break the train of your everyday thoughts and induce a relaxation response, using whatever techniques that work well for you.
Practicing mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts and let go of negativity.
It is a mind-calming practice that helps you to focus on your breathing, embrace your awareness of the present moment, and calm both your mind and body.
When you practice mindfulness meditation, you become present in the moment and actually train yourself to become more mindful throughout the day, particularly during difficult situations.
Your daily activities and thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining and can make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you. You will even discover how to make your sleep surroundings more conducive to rest and deep sleep.
Benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness can help you to promote a healthy sleep pattern. Mindfulness practices and habits are meant to quiet your brain and allow for deeper sleep – it helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
The practice encourages nonjudgmental awareness in you so that you’re able to see things exactly as they are, with openness and curiosity.
You should learn to practice mindfulness for sleep by introducing meditation and movement techniques based on cultivating awareness. Its regular practice holds powerful benefits of helping to tame your anxious thoughts, calm your mind, and promote a good night’s sleep.
It sets the stage for sleep by allowing you to be more aware of your thoughts and let go of your anxieties instead of getting stuck on them.
It also prepares your mind for drifting off to sleep, and it can also improve the quality of sleep you get.
Other benefits of mindful meditation
If you regularly practice mindfulness meditation, it may help alleviate the following conditions:
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
Mindful meditation may also help you to:
- improve attention
- get quality sleep
- improve control of diabetes
- decrease job burnout
How to practice mindfulness meditation for sleep
There are many ways to practice mindfulness however you should focus on the following:
Choose your posture
One of the most common postures for practicing mindfulness is sitting. You may sit on a meditation cushion, chair, or bench.
Any seated posture works, as long as it supports your being alert and at ease while you practice mindfulness.
If for any reason a seated posture is difficult for your body, you should try out another posture such as standing or lying down.
Begin with intention
To start, spend a few moments connecting with your intention. Your intention to practice mindfulness meditation should be a nourishing and powerful form of self-care. It should be associated with cultivating greater wakefulness and kindness in your life.
Reflect on your intention for a few moments, and as you hold it in your awareness, try to tune into any sensations in your body. In your busy world, it may be hard for you to slow down and notice things in your body.
However, for this practice, you should try to take the time to quietly experience your environment with all of your senses – touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste.
Shift attention to your body & choose a calming focus
After connecting with your intention, let go of the reflection on intention and begin to tune into your body. Rather than thinking about your entire body, you should be attentive from the inside out.
Allow yourself to notice the aliveness that is happening inside your body. The idea is to take a few moments to offer kind attention to any places of your body that might need it.
By so doing, you’re acknowledging your body as it is in this moment. You’re not trying to change, fix, or force your body to relax.
Quietly focus on one of your senses at a time – touch, sight, sound, smell, or taste. For instance, when you’re eating your favorite food, take some time to focus on your sense of smell. Smell the food, taste it, and truly enjoy it.
If your focus is your breathing, you can repeatedly say something positive such as “relax” or “peace” as you breathe in and out.
You may also repeat a phrase such as “breathing in calm, breathing out tension” or “I am relaxed”.
If you choose to focus on a sound, repeat the sound aloud or silently as you inhale or exhale.
If you notice a physical sensation such as body ache or pain, take a moment to acknowledge this new relationship.
For instance, you can say “Oh, I’m bracing against this back pain or shoulder pain… this is difficult …” and invite the possibility of kindness.
By doing this, even if there are painful sensations in your body, you can still try to smoothen the way that you’re relating to them.
Focus on your breathing
Begin now to feel the sensations of the breath in your body. Focus on your soft, breathing belly, and continue with deep diaphragmatic breathing. Allow yourself to rest your attention with the aliveness of your breathing body.
Whenever you have negative thoughts, sit down, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
Again, you may repeat the phrase “breathing in calm, breathing out tension” or “I am relaxed”. Sitting and focusing on your breathing for even just a minute can help you steer away from the negative thoughts.
When your attention wanders
During your practice, your mind may occasionally drift off and you find yourself thinking of something else.
Your attention may have been pulled away from your breathing body to another experience. This could be the sound of a passing car, an emotion, or even a thought train. You might have suddenly gotten lost inside that experience.
Fortunately, at some point, you will “wake up,” and realize that you’ve lost connection with the present moment.
When you notice your mind has wandered, simply take a deep breath or say to yourself “ok, I’m thinking” and gently return your attention to your chosen focus.
Accept yourself for who you are
While practicing mindfulness meditation, you should be non-judgemental and treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
Take a moment to notice reflect on your attitude when you first “wake up” in the morning.
How do you treat yourself?
Is your attitude self-critical and you go, (“I knew it, I’m very bad at practicing mindfulness and I’ll never get it”)?
Is your attitude non-judgmental (“Oh boy, I was lost … it’s great to become aware again!”)?
Being judgmental and hard on yourself are self-limiting attitudes that will often lead you to more moments of being lost.
On the other hand, being kind to yourself and non-judging will encourage the occurrence of more moments of mindfulness.
Live in the moment
An important way to practice mindful meditation is to intentionally bring an open, accepting, and discerning attention to everything you do. Try to find joy in simple pleasures.
Mindfulness meditation dos and don’ts
If you plan on practicing mindfulness meditation for sleep, you should understand the dos and don’ts for a good night’s sleep. This will help you enjoy the benefits of your practice.
You should meditate every day. If you maintain a regular daytime mindfulness meditation practice, you’re likely to sleep better and stay asleep longer at night. It may not be an instant solution if you’ve had insomnia for a long time.
If you’ve become accustomed to waking up every night at 2 am, for instance, starting a daily mindfulness practice may not immediately change that habit.
With time and continued practice, your body and mind should be able to relax any tension you may be holding in your body.
You should practice mindfulness during the day – ideally for 20 minutes. This should create a reflex in you that will easily bring forth a sense of relaxation in your body.
That way, it’s easier to evoke the relaxation response at night when you can’t sleep. The relaxation response has been found to be so effective that it is recommended that your daytime practice should be done sitting up or moving around (as in yoga or tai chi) so that you don’t nod off or fall asleep.
Do not force it
If you’re having trouble drifting off in the wee hours of the morning, try to let go of the struggle. The more you lie in bed trying to force yourself to sleep, the more it won’t happen.
Notice how you agonize and worry about being unable to sleep and the noisy mind it creates in you? Mentally visualize them floating by. Visualize them floating away. The more you do this and accept that you cannot force sleep, the easier sleep will come.
Try out of bed meditation
If sleep still doesn’t come, you can perform your mindfulness practice out of bed. Try it somewhere else.
The point here isn’t for you to fall asleep in the midst of your practice but to do so afterward when you return to bed.
Avoid relying on sleep apps
Do you use sleep apps as a sedative to help you to sleep? If you do, that’s not being helpful to yourself.
You really shouldn’t need to rely on anything to fall asleep, certainly not a phone app.
If you become dependent on that, what happens if one day your phone is out of juice or your app doesn’t work? You should find ways to make yourself sleep naturally without the aid of an app.
Know when to take a break
There are times during mindful meditation when your mind and heart are not able to remain balanced, steady, and open to experience sensations in your body.
If this occurs, you should take a break from formal mindfulness practice. You’ll know it’s time to take a break if you notice that your body is too tense and agitated or you feel like a difficult emotion or thought is overwhelming your attention.
How to wind down for sleep with mindfulness
How do you spend your time right before you retire for the night?
Getting a solid night’s sleep starts with the way you spend the time leading up to your bedtime. By cultivating a better attitude about sleep and preparing yourself for a good night’s rest, you should get quality sleep every night.
Here are some of the ways you can achieve that:
Stay away from your devices
If you want to fall asleep, you should start by eliminating distractions. Televisions and smartphones are the most likely distraction culprits you will have.
Not only will the television, phone or tablet lighting up your bedside table disturb your sleeping, these screens also emit blue light which can affect your brain.
This will increase your alertness and reduce levels of sleep-inducing melatonin in your body while you sleep.
You should give your devices a break just before your bedtime. Turn off the television and other devices. If you must leave your phone on for any reason, put it on silent mode, and leave it facing down.
If you’re using meditation music for relaxation and sleep, use black screen relaxing sleep music videos on YouTube that are perfect for helping you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
A benefit of black screen sleep music videos is that the theme of the screen of your television or device switches to black or something close to it after a while.
This helps eliminate brightness and glare and enhance sleep quality.
Fake it until you make it
Learn not to force yourself to sleep.
The phrase “Fake it until you make it” applies to sleep as well. The pressure of trying to fall asleep could have an adverse effect and heighten your feelings of stress. By practicing mindfulness meditation and embracing the moment, sleep will usually come to you naturally.
Try a body scan meditation
Body scan meditation is an effective, more structured form of mindfulness meditation for sleep. It is a meditative practice that involves mindfully scanning your body for sensations of pain, tension, or anything out of the ordinary.
By developing an awareness of your bodily sensations, you’ll feel more connected to your physical self and gain greater insight into the potential causes of your unwanted feelings. This knowledge will make it easier for you to address what is out of the ordinary in your body. Addressing it will likely lead to improved wellness in your body and mind.
How to practice body scan meditation
- Start by lying on your back with your legs extended and your arms at your sides, palms facing up.
- Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body from your head to your toe or your toe to head (choose your preference).
- Start by consciously noticing sensations in your body and your breathing. Be aware of any sensations, emotions, or thoughts associated with each part of your body.
- Whenever your attention tends to wander, take note of that, then gently center your thoughts back to your focus.
- You should allow yourself to be with what’s here and now, your body will naturally go to rest, and natural sleep will follow.
For structured mindfulness exercises such as body scan meditation, set aside time when you can be in a quiet place without interruptions or distractions.
Furthermore, perform this type of exercise early in the morning before you begin your daily routine.
Your aim should be to practice mindfulness meditation every day for about six months. With practice, you’ll find that mindfulness will become an effortless task as you commit to reconnecting with and nurturing yourself. You should sleep better and enjoy the benefits of good sleep.