5 ways to improve your sleep with mindfulness practices
We all want quality sleep. And when we’re young, for the most part, it’s easy to get. But as we age, sleep challenges become more and more common.
Millions of people lie in bed at night, tossing and turning, wanting nothing more than a peaceful slumber. The problem is, our busy minds won’t turn off.
Now it’s understandable. We live in a busy world where anxiety, pressures, and worries build through the day. Then at night, lo and behold, we’re unable to sleep.
The ironic thing is the harder we try, the further we push sleep away.
Ultimately, we want to relax our active minds in order to drift off with ease.
When we tune in to the present, we’re not worrying about what’s next. That’s when sleep comes – when the mind is at ease.
And if we can develop the habit of stepping in through the day, to give our minds a brief break as anxiety starts to build, we’re better equipped to fall asleep at night.
Today we’re sharing our 5 favorite mindfulness practices will help improve your sleep.
Pay attention to your daily habits
Start paying attention to daily habits that might be interfering with sleep at night. Things like making sure you don’t drink caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime, making efforts not to eat spicy or high sugar foods late in the evening, and getting a daily dose of exercise, even if it’s just a walk.
These are all helpful habits you can implement to ensure you aren’t interfering with the natural process of sleep.
As you move through the day, pay attention and see if you notice a direct correlation between these habits and how well you sleep at night.
Meditation to try:
This evening when you head to bed, try out our “30-minute Body Scan for Sleep,” located under the tab, Deep Sleep.
It’s a soothing meditation to help you fall asleep. You can take it with you right into bed and don’t worry about making it through the whole session, feel free to drift off anytime.
Relax the body
Have you ever noticed how uncanny it is that we’ll have a busy or stressful day, then we’ll lie down to sleep, and as soon as our head hits the pillow, our mind begins to whirl no matter how tired we are?
The reason is that in the quiet of our own home, without our normal day to day distractions, we’re faced with just how busy our minds actually are.
And because the mind and body are so connected, if we have a busy mind, we’ll inevitably have a restless body.
If we’re able to check in with how we’re feeling through the day, we’re better able to put a break on stress before it escalates. And if we can relax during waking hours, we’ll be far more ready to wind down at night.
Body scans allow us to tune in to what’s going on in our mind and body, and they help us relax tension. When we’re relaxed we’re better able to let go of the pressure we place on ourselves to fall asleep – and that’s when sleep inevitably happens.
Tonight, when you head to bed, try our “30-minute Progressive Muscle Relaxation,” located under the tab Deep Sleep. It focuses on tensing and relaxing each body part one by one.
Create an evening ritual
If it’s possible, each night before bed, try and enjoy some quiet, nurturing activities that relax you and help you disengage from the events of the day. You can try things like taking a warm bath, or light yoga.
Part of your routine might involve shutting your computer down an hour or so before bed. This helps create a buffer zone that moves you away from your work-day and active self to your relaxed self.
Other things you might try are listening to music, a calm hobby like drawing, and last but not least: meditation.
Reprogramming sleep doesn’t happen overnight, but with an understanding of what it takes and a committed effort, you’ll once again enjoy restful sleep.
What most of us don’t realize is that it’s not the fact that we can’t fall asleep that’s the issue. The issue is how we react to not falling asleep.
If we weren’t able to sleep but we’re okay with it, we’d lie in bed, perfectly relaxed and get a significant amount of healing rest even if weren’t sleeping. Then, fairly soon, in our relaxed state we’d eventually drift off.
But most of us don’t maintain a sense of calm. We react to not being able to fall asleep. We get anxious, thinking about the day ahead and how much we have to do, how we need to be well rested, and the more anxious we get, the further we push sleep away.
So the key to getting sleep is in becoming less reactive to not sleeping, to not let being awake bother us so much.
Now of course, this is easier said than done. How do we learn to be less reactive when we’re lying in bed at night and we desperately want to sleep?
Like anything else, it takes practice.
The more we practice non-reactivity in day-to-day life, the easier it is to practice at night, when our minds are tired, and we’re much more naturally reactive.
This is why it’s ideal to meditate in the morning if possible – even if it’s just a quick 10-minute session. Bringing awareness into the day first thing, helps us maintain mindfulness so we’re able to react more calmly to stress through the day. The more we practice non-reactivity, the more that state of mind becomes ingrained, and the less reactive we are at night.
That’s the key to falling asleep. Removing the pressure, and being able to relax into the moment, whatever it looks like.
Have you ever noticed how late in the evening, right around bedtime, your mind begins racing?
Sometimes we’re replaying exciting events of the day, other times we’re reviewing our to-do list or worrying about the future.
We often don’t realize how fired up our minds are until we place our heads on the pillow, and our thoughts begin to whirl uncontrollably.
Releasing our daytime thoughts and worries is an important part of getting quality sleep. Ideally, we want to address whatever’s going on in our mind before we hit the pillow.
During the day, we’re so busy, we often don’t notice what’s going on in our minds and bodies. If we were, our thoughts and concerns wouldn’t build as steadily, and when we hit the pillow there’d be less to overwhelm us.
We tend to think what happens during the day doesn’t affect our sleep, but it’s actually directly connected. The state of our mind through the day bleeds into the state of our mind at night.
Tuning in through the day, helps to become aware of what’s going on within. And if you can acknowledge that during daytime hours, you’re less likely to be wound up at night.
An effective strategy to address your concerns so they don’t keep you up at night is to set aside a “worry time” earlier in the day.
To do this, find a comfortable place to sit, and write down all the concerns floating through your mind. Don’t worry how they read – this is just for you.
Create a list of concerns on the left side of the page, and then across from that, on the right, list one or more possible solutions.
Breaking down concerns into solutions with bite sized steps makes them feel much more manageable.
Don’t feel you have to fix or solve everything immediately. The goal is just to get your concerns out of your mind before you climb into bed so they don’t swirl through your mind at night.
Explore these strategies and more in in our 7 Days of Sleep program.