Achieving quality sleep is a challenge that many people face. Digital distraction, stress, financial problems, the pandemic and many other causes can be sources of insomnia. Having a good night’s rest can do wonders for your health, as well as your productivity, creativity, and even your ability to solve problems at work.
If you struggle to go to bed each night or you are not getting a good night’s sleep, practicing mindfulness meditation may help you improve both your quantity and quality of sleep.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness stems from the idea of focusing and living in the present moment and staying engaged in it. It involves maintaining your awareness of your senses, body movements, and surroundings, without getting distracted by other thoughts. Some of the principles for mindfulness include patience, gratitude, letting go, trust, and acceptance.
Mindfulness meditation is a mental practice that combines mindfulness and deep breathing with concentration techniques. These techniques are designed to help you calm your mind and body, eliminate negative thoughts, and increase clarity. Most stress is caused by thoughts of the past or anxiety about the future. By practicing mindfulness and being more present in the moment, one can release these stressors of the past and future.
Meditation is simple, but not easy. Your mind will wander from thought to thought, so the purpose of incorporating mindfulness is to avoid getting lost in these thoughts and grounding yourself in the moment—letting go of thoughts.
Apps such as Headspace, and many others, are available to help beginners learn meditation as easily as possible, in as little as five minutes per day. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time to make a big difference.
How Does Mindfulness Meditation Help with Sleep?
As mentioned above, feelings like stress, pressure, anxiety, and tension can all affect your sleep quality. Mindfulness meditation thus helps by putting you in the right mental space to allow for better sleep. It teaches you to “switch off” and quiet your brain at night so that you can avoid overthinking and worrying about problems while in bed. The idea of the practice is to acknowledge the negative thoughts and let them go, instead of allowing them to affect your mental state.
Various studies have observed how mindfulness meditation improves sleep. For example, one study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal found that participants who completed a mindfulness program experienced less insomnia and fatigue than those who completed a sleep education program.
There is no fixed way to practice mindfulness meditation, but if you want to try it out for your sleep, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Meditate Regularly. Mindfulness meditation is not a one-time fix to your sleeping problems. Think of it as a regular habit that you develop and incorporate into your lifestyle. You do not need to spend an hour meditating every day. Dedicating as little as five minutes will be enough to give yourself more calmness and clarity.
- Practicing Out of Bed. While it may be tempting to practice your meditation in bed, it is recommended that you practice elsewhere. Doing it in bed can create the feeling that your bed is used for activities other than sleeping, so you want to avoid this. Find a quiet place where you can sit upright in a comfortable position to practice.
- Turn Off Devices. The light from screens disrupt sleep. They can also increase your anxiety, and distraction as your mind craves the next “ping” from a friend or social media channel. Thus, it would be beneficial to set boundaries and turn off your devices at least an hour or more before bedtime. And it wouldn’t hurt to get to be a little early.
- Move Around. Part of mindfulness includes being aware of your body senses and movements, so whenever possible, try to move around during the day. It can be as simple as taking a short walk outside or doing some simple stretches from your desk, all the while being aware of the present moment.
- Find a Focus. As a beginner, it can help to choose a “calming focus” that you can center your thoughts on. The most common method is to focus your thoughts on your breath, your inhale and exhale. But your focus could be a visualization, or even a positive word that you repeat and tune your mind toward.
Ultimately, mindfulness meditation can be a powerful practice to help you ground your emotions, calm your thoughts, and become more aware. If your sleeping patterns have been problematic for a while now, it may be time to start incorporating this practice into your daily life.