Do you have trouble falling asleep; a busy mind not able to switch off?
Thinking about work, life, family, friends, money, relationships and just unable to find the off button. Sometimes worrying about not getting enough sleep can prevent you from falling asleep! Mindfulness turns out to be a great cure for this kind of insomnia.
In an article on mindfulness research published by Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook, Ph.D., of the Mindful Awareness Research Centre at UCLA, they state that mindfulness improves regulation of stress and increases a sense of calm that results in a better ability to sleep.
In another controlled clinical trial conducted by the University of Minnesota Academic Health Centre revealed some interesting results. People suffering from chronic insomnia who underwent a mindfulness-based stress reduction program had results equivalent to another group who used pharmaceutical sleep aids. All participants fell asleep more quickly, slept longer and better. A portion of those taking pharmaceuticals throughout the study reported side effects, but the group trained in mindfulness did not.
If your suffering from insomnia, research shows that you will likely benefit greatly from a regular mindfulness practice. A little bit each day (even if it’s only 10 minutes) is better than one longer session a week. A good habit is to practice upon rising in the morning and/or just before retiring in the evening to start and end your day with calm and clarity. Another option is to practice in your lunch break at work.
So, what is mindfulness?
The aim is to take control of your busy mind and move it to a more relaxed state. This then has a flow on effect to relax the rest of your body. A calmer mind then helps you to fall asleep easier.
Other benefits include:
- Reducing stress
- Less anxiety
- Better focus
- Treatment of depression
- Improved memory
- Better relationships
By focusing your attention on the present moment and bringing your mind to the here and now you can manage your worries better.
Some of the common relaxation techniques include:
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Guided imagery
There are also many apps available as well such as Insight Timer, Smiling Minds, Headspace, Rain Rain to name only a few.
A simple meditation for sleep is to focus on the breath while lying in bed as you are preparing to go to sleep. Follow the breath moving into and out of the body. As you are being aware of the breath just allow yourself to sink into the bed with each
breath. Imagine breathing out to the ends of the universe and breathing from there back into your body.
By taking this mindful attitude, sleep is helped by simply being aware of the moment-to-moment experience of relaxing into the bed, without judging or being critical of that experience, so that the mind can gently slip into sleep. Practice of mindfulness meditation during the day can help focus the mind and decrease stress by reducing negative thoughts about the past and needless worries about the future. And that, combined with bedtime relaxation, can help you get a better night’s sleep.
Mindfulness is most effective if used as part of a wider attempt to improve your sleep. Other things like certain food and drink, use of technology, when to exercise, your sleeping environment, maintaining a good sleep schedule are also very important to improve overall sleep.
Nicole Haak is an experienced Melbourne Naturopath whose gentle approach and warm nature enable her to be an empathetic and supportive practitioner who takes a genuine interest in her clients’ needs. She has a deep passion for what she does. This is evident by her holistic approach to helping her patients find solutions to their health concerns and improve their quality of life.