How to use Mindfulness for a Peaceful Night’s Sleep
Let me start by saying that I am completely OBSESSED with my sleep. Since I was born, we have had a love-hate relationship and it has taken me many, many years of sleep experiments to find out what it is that (literally) keeps me up at night. Falling asleep in the first place has always been the biggest issue for me. Before I became unwell it didn’t really bother me. I was quite happy to lie there for a couple of hours before I eventually drifted off. I would usually be mentally preparing for the next day and generally putting the world to rights. This changed completely when I became depressed. I felt like I was constantly aching to be asleep and always desperate to be back in bed regardless of the amount of activity, caffeine or food I’d had throughout the day. It was bad enough being sad all the time, but sleep deprivation made me feel straight up mad. Despite every change I made to my bedtime routine and sleeping environment, I would get into bed and my (upsetting and often cruel) thoughts would take over. It became clear to me that all the changes I had made weren’t helping because they weren’t targeting the right thing. Enter mindfulness….
What is Mindfulness?
There is such an overwhelming amount of misleading, inaccurate and oftentimes plain wrong information available at our fingertips about our health and well-being. Because of this, I’m generally pretty skeptical and I have a tendency to write off anything that looks like the next big well-being fad. It was only when I got unwell last year and the lack of sleep started to really affect me did I decide to give up on what I had previously thought was for me, as clearly it wasn’t working anyway! Put simply, to be mindful means to have a conscious awareness of what you are doing and why. It sounds so simple, but of course we all get caught up in our thoughts without realizing it all the time. Mindful meditation can benefit practically every area of our lives and I would highly recommend checking out some of the fantastic blogs out there about it, like this one. In this post though, I’ll be sharing the technique I’ve developed and have found most helpful for getting me to sleep at night.
How to use Mindfulness for a Peaceful Night’s Sleep Tonight
So this is it;
Lie flat on your back with your hands lying on your stomach or wherever is most comfortable. Close your eyes and take 2 deep breaths. Start by really feeling every part of your body from the toes up. How do your feet feel? Are they cold? Hot? Twitchy? Move up through your ankles, calves, knees and so on, just noticing how each part feels. Resist the urge to fidget or improve how you feel, but just notice the sensations at each point of the body as you sweep slowly up. This is known as the body scan technique, I’m sure you can see why. I often find that this exercise alone helps me feel much sleepier immediately, as it’s like a little reminder that every part of my body has worked hard today and deserves a good rest. Once you’ve ‘scanned’ your whole body, take a deep breath and imagine yourself sat beside a quietly flowing stream, watching each of your thoughts gently flow past with the water. From here, start counting down from 100 to 1 in your head as your breath in and out. E.g. 100 breathe in….99 breathe out….98 breathe in and so on.
And that’s it! I’ve been using these mindfulness exercises every night for a little over six months now and it’s really changed how I think about sleep completely. It’s a much less stressful process, because I’m not placing any unnecessary pressure on myself to ‘clear my mind’- the impossible dream. Practicing mindfulness regularly also helps me to be present and make good choices in other areas of my life. Especially when it comes to choosing nutritious food and motivating myself to exercise. But more on that in a later post! Have you tried using mindfulness? I would love to hear how you got on! Until next time, keep fighting the good fight my friends.