5 Powerful Mindfulness Techniques for Better Sleep

Woman sleeping

Given the importance of sleep on our physical and mental well-being it is no surprise that there is a massive and expensive market full of weird and wonderful sleeping aids, documents, books and products all promising to give you the Holy Grail of sleep.

But if your struggling with insomnia could using mindfulness for better sleep be the much simpler key?

Its very normal for most people to experience the occasional restless night and while this may cause a bit of short-term lethargy, we can quickly recover from these short spells of sleep deprivation.

The issues occur when the quality of sleep you are getting is impacting your quality of life. Research shows that regular sleep deprivation can have significant consequences on physical and mental health.

So, if you’re experiencing a period of poor sleep take a look at these formal and informal mindfulness practices to see if they can help you drift off into slumber land.

Using mindfulness to enhance sleep quality

Sleep disturbances can often be linked to anxiety and depression, both of which get worse with a lack of sleep. Mindfulness has been proven to help reduce and manage both of these.

A study published a few years ago in Jama internal medicine discovered that people who completed a mindfulness course had less insomnia, depression and fatigue after six, weekly, two-hour sessions.

While attending a course may be the best and most effective way to start practicing mindfulness, just twenty minutes of mindfulness each day at home could also have huge benefits.

There is a lot of support, books, online courses and apps which may help you to practice mindfulness at home, along with some of the practices listed in this article.

1. Noting and Journaling

A really effective way to clear your mind of unfinished business before bed is to transfer it onto paper.

Writing down what’s in your head and heart can help you process unresolved issues and emotions and really check in with how you’re feeling.

Try writing a journal for five minutes every night and after a few weeks of entries look back and reflect on them to see how far you have come.

A recent study by Michael K. Scullin (Dept. of Neuroscience, Baylor University) found that writing a to-do list for the next day can help you to fall asleep quicker and wake feeling more refreshed.

2. Exercise and the great outdoors

People who regularly exercise report consistently better sleep. Exercise releases stress and tension and can boost your mood. Try combining your exercise with getting outdoors.

According to ‘The Little Book of Sleep‘, getting out into nature, ideally somewhere green or near water and trees, helps to restore the balance of the hormones serotonin, oxytocin and melatonin that are vital for your mood, well-being and sleep.

Why not start exercising with a mindfulness walk in nature? Here’s how I like to do it.

  1. To begin start walking.
  2. For the next few minutes bring your attention to your breathing and without changing or forcing the breath just focus on all sensations relating to it. Follow it as it enters and leaves your body, notice where you feel the breath the most, at the nostrils, as your stomach expands and deflates, in your chest? Does it feel different to breathing indoors or when you are still? Immerse yourself fully on your breath.
  3. Don’t worry if your mind starts to wander, just bring your attention right back to where it needs to be when you notice and carry on.
  4. Now bring your awareness to the physical sensations within your body. Which parts of the body are moving, how do the bottom of your feet feel when you take each step? Focus on your muscles, how it feels when they contract and flex. Which muscles can you feel? Just spend time noticing your body, each little part.
  5. Next bring your attention to your ears and notice what sounds you can hear. Don’t ‘try’ to hear sounds just bring your attention to the ones you notice. Maybe that’s leaves or gravel crunching under foot or birds singing. Notice if they seem far away or close. Be open to new noises as they arise.
  6. Next bring awareness to your eyes. What can you see around you? Look up, down Infront and behind. Again, don’t search for images just simply be aware of what you are seeing, note colors, shapes and sizes. Don’t judge what you see just be aware of it, how it makes you feel or think and then move on.
  7. Finally bring your attention to what you can feel. Notice any wind on your skin, stones underfoot, plants brushing against your legs, are you sweating against your skin? You can even explore this further by picking up items and noticing how you feel about them, how they feel to touch, heavy, light, soft, cold, wet. Be aware of how they make you feel. Don’t judge your response, there is no right or wrong answer to how you think or feel.
  8. As you walk keep shifting your attention from one sensation to the next.
  9. Breath and enjoy the journey.

3. Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation performed while lying down. Practitioners find it restorative for the body and claim that thirty minutes of Yoga Nidra equates to three or more hours sleep.

By focusing your attention on relaxing different body parts, you can end up in state of consciousness between waking and asleep.

Yoga Nidra has grown massively in popularity over the last few years so classes are usually easily accessible. For people wanting to practice at home try following this guided practice in bed just before you want to drop off.

4. Sleep meditations

Developing a habit of practicing a sleep mediation before going to sleep can really help set your body and mind up for the night ahead. You can develop a routine and practice the same mediation each night or choose a different one depending on your day and how you’re feeling.

Here’s a simple SLEEP Meditation technique taken from the book ‘Mindful Moments For Busy mothers’ by Sarah Rudell Beach.

It has five steps as follows:

  1. S – Savour.
  2. L – Learn.
  3. E – Ease.
  4. E- Engage.
  5. P- Prepare.

Before you go to sleep, spend a few minutes with each step.

Here are the steps in detail:

1. Savour, what’s one positive thing you want to remember about today?

To savour a moment is to appreciate it fully, to enjoy it and to relish it.

Practicing this means slowing down and tuning into your senses. For example, if you want to savour a bite of food then chew it slowly, how does it taste, how does it feel, hot, cold, smooth? Can you follow it on its journey as it leaves your mouth and enters your stomach?

You can savour memories in the same way. Before you go to sleep what is one positive thing you would like to savour from today? It might be a game you played with your family, a small or big achievement at work, a delicious meal you ate or a meeting with someone who made you smile. Recall every detail and tune into your senses. How did it make you feel at the time and how is it making you feel recalling the memory?

2. Learn, what’s one thing you learned from today?

Take a few minutes to focus on your breath and bring your attention to something you learnt from today.

It might be something obvious like a new skill from a course or it could be something more spiritual or even something you have learnt about yourself or a fact about a loved one. Anything that you feel is worth acknowledging.

3. Ease, what can you do to bring ease to tomorrow?

Tune into yourself and notice any thoughts that arise relating to tomorrow. Don’t force them but acknowledge if you have any worries or negative feelings towards the day to follow.

What can you do that would bring ease to these?

There may be specific tasks that may help or it may be a case of just acknowledging how you feel and accepting your worry as just that and accepting it is out of your control.

4. Engage, what can you do to bring energy to tomorrow?

To fully attend and be aware of what is happening within yourself and around you. Commit to engaging with life in a mindful way tomorrow and acknowledge if you managed to engage with life in a mindful way today?

5. Prepare, what do you need to do to be ready for tomorrow?

Prepare, being prepared for the following day can give you extra minutes and head space before you have even left the house. These extra minutes could be used for mindful meditation, relaxation or to make another part of your day slightly easier.

5. Gratitude Body Scan

Gratitude allows us to acknowledge the many positive blessings we encounter in our life.

Practicing a gratitude scan before bed can help you feel more content and less anxious which in turn sets you up for a better more peaceful nights sleep.

Here’s how to do a gratitude body scan for better sleep:

Go to bed and allow yourself to find a comfortable position laying down. Close your eyes and gently bring your focus to your body in the following order.

Starting at your feet, do you notice any sensations. Cold, warmth, tingling, itching, pressure or maybe you don’t notice any sensations at all?

Change you focus to appreciation for your feet. Express gratitude for them and all they allow you to do. Walking, supporting you all day when standing, running.

Next move up to your legs. Acknowledge any sensations and express gratitude as above.

Follow this process through your whole body, stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, hands and head, not forgetting your eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

Mindfulness is most effective when it is practiced regularly with an open heart and mind. To see the biggest benefits practice mindfulness alongside a healthy lifestyle.

You can see more information about sleep relaxation techniques here.

Like with most things in life, mindfulness is not a one glove fits all practice. Different exercises and activities will have different affects on you personally and fit into your lifestyle better. If your quality of sleep continues to affect your quality of life then it might be worth seeking professional help from your physician.

Hi my name is Helen Coultate, I am a 34 year old mother to two. My journey to motherhood kick started a very stressful and disruptive time in my life which continued to spiral and eventually led me to mindfulness. Through discovering mindfulness and its benefits not just on me but my husband and family dynamics I started to feel acceptance and contentment for where life had led us. I felt empowered and inspired and so set up Ispyasimplelife.co.uk, a blog and shop to help encourage and give the tools and resources for other people to discover mindfulness, selfcare and wellness for themselves.

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