Once upon a time, you had no problem falling asleep as soon as your body hit the bed. Those were quality nights of sleep. It seems, however, that for you (like many others), challenges to sleep have, over time, become a norm. These days, you spend a few hours or more tossing and turning in bed before eventually drifting off. If your brain isn’t busy reviewing all the day’s events, it is estimating the total cost of groceries you’ll need for the next week or thinking about your upcoming meeting with someone.
Now, these are fast becoming an everyday occurrence for many of us. We live in a fast-paced world; we’re multitasking half the time on tasks that never seem to end. And as such, anxiety, pressures, and stress builds throughout the day, and the “reward” at night is sleeplessness.
For you, it seems all the sleeping “hacks” you learned have no effect no matter how hard you try. What can you do then?
For a good, peaceful night’s sleep, “awareness” is essential. You want to tune in to the present without worrying about the next day the moment you plop into that bed. When we lose our awareness of the present, our minds tend to get stuck at our maladaptive way of thinking, and that isn’t something you want when you need to drift off after a long day.
In this post, we’ll share five Mindful Practices to help improve your sleep.
Eliminate/Cut down on Your Worries
As long as our brains still function, our minds will replay past events. Often, most of it happens late in the evening, just right around the time you should be enjoying some quality sleep. We’re either replaying our tomorrow’s “to-dos” excessively or worrying about the future. At that point, we amplify temporary problems, and they seem like a big part of reality.
What can you do? The first step is releasing all of our daytime issues and concerns. That means addressing whatever it is running through our mind before we lie down to sleep. To do this, find a quiet and comfortable place and outline every concern on your mind.
Don’t worry; they don’t have to read like an author; they’re just for your eyes.
After listing out these concerns, outline the possible solutions and maybe the steps to achieve them. Understand that you don’t have to fix every one of your concerns right away, the idea is to get them out of your mind before lying down, so they don’t impede your sleep.
Practice Mindful Breathing
This is one essential step to staying present. If offloading your concerns through writing does not help you sleep, mindful breathing is something worth trying.
The steps are easy. First, shut your eyes and place your right hand on your abdomen as you want to ensure you feel your stomach expand as you slowly breathe in.
Breathe in deeply and imagine a balloon filling with air. Pause and then exhale slowly as visualize the air being let out of the balloon. Because it is easier to exhale slowly for most people than it is to inhale, you can try concentrating on achieving a longer exhalation.
Do this repeatedly until you can feel your breath slowed and your body more relaxed. This breathing technique can also be used in an upright position anytime you’re stressed out or anxious. Remember to focus on slowing your exhalation as this would automatically slow down the accompanying inhalation.
Release Yourself Into Calm
The truth is, hardly will a day go by without its troubles as long as you have frequent contact with other humans. Stress is normal, but what you do after is what counts and, by extension, affect how well you sleep.
At the end of each day, stress-filled or not, settle into the much-deserved rest and allow yourself to fade into that activity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the kitchen, cleaning out the closet, or listening to the traffic across the road.
Blend in with your surroundings and activities. Don’t fight it, release conflicts you may have had at work or with family. Consciously choose to not dwell on the arguments, the troubles, and worries. Release the pain and thoughts that accompany it. Practice exhaling anxiety, doubt, tension, and inhale peace, relaxation, and happiness.
Play Guided Meditation Sounds
Devote 10 minutes at least to nature/guided meditation sounds. Some of them include falling rain and ocean waves sounds. This works because our brains are wired to be fascinated by novelty.
The pattern of rushing waves against a shoreline is very similar to our regular, slow breathing cycle. This captures our brain’s attention until it gets bored by it, which often happens quickly, and then shuts down so you can sleep.
Note: avoid listening to audiobooks in place of nature sounds; they’re not the same thing. The former will grip your brain’s attention, and you don’t want that when you need some sleep.
Disconnect All Gadgets
An hour or two before your bedtime, disconnect from all technology. The lights from gadgets like television, phones, PCs, and tabs are distracting.
When used at night, they have even worse effects on our sleeping patterns. Stop answering or sending out emails on your computer or phone and turn these devices off. Resist the urge to check Kim’s “insanely beautiful” food art on Instagram. That can wait till tomorrow. How about a peek at Robert’s family vacation pictures on Facebook right before bed? That too, can wait.
A busy mind, a tired and tense body, is not the best recipe for enjoyable sleep. There are several other effective nighttime rituals to help you relax and sleep better besides the five outlined. Once you begin to practice any of the activities above, you should be able to observe some positive differences in your sleeping pattern in no time.