Many of us have difficulties getting a good night’s sleep. If this is the case for you, know that you are not alone. In fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than a third of Americans are not getting adequate sleep on a regular basis. Why could this be happening and what can we do about it?
While there are many root causes of sleep concerns that need to be addressed on an individual basis, one major contributor is heightened stress levels. Stress increases our levels of cortisol, and since melatonin (our sleep hormone) is typically secreted when cortisol is low, stress has an inverse relationship on sleep. Since mindfulness has been shown to help reduce stress, it is one free and empowering intervention we can explore to start positively influencing our resting hours.
If you are looking to explore mindfulness for sleep concerns, the following are simple practices worthy of consideration. These are all practices that can be explored on one’s own or using guided exercises. For additional mindfulness for sleep support, check out more of our free resources for sleep and relaxation.
6 Ways to Use Mindfulness to Help You Sleep
First and foremost, mindful breathing is a practice that can instantly help to decrease the body’s stress response. By noting the way the body moves into and out of the body, our attention shifts away from whatever we might be holding in the mind. As we notice any tension or contraction in the chest, the shoulders, or the belly, we might naturally start to ease some of this to facilitate the breaths flow. Then, as we breathe deeper, we move further away from the stress response and into a state of greater tranquility.
Body Scan Practice
Another common mindfulness practice that can help us to sleep better is the body scan. This is a simple and straightforward technique that can easily be used while resting in bed. Using either a guided meditation or self-guiding yourself through this practice, the body scan invites you to draw your attention through the body with curiosity, openness, and care. As you move from part to part, you are invited to soften or send loving energy to all that you encounter. This can help us to relax more deeply on a physical level, which sends a soothing ripple of energy to the mind.
Additional practices of mindfulness to help you sleep better are those that invite us to cultivate self-compassion. Often our experience of stress is tied up with self-judgment or self-doubt, which can keep us entangled in unhelpful and negative thought loops. By practicing self-compassion before sleep, we begin to let go of the negative stories that make it hard for us to rest well.
Before we even hop into bed, we might consider mindful movement to help us release a bit of tension from the body. Yoga is one form of mindful movement conducive with sleep, but even simple stretches can help us to come down from the mind and into the body. Let your intuition guide you through this process, helping you to free any tightness or tension in a safe and soothing way.
Another great practice we can explore before bed or while curled up before we turn off the lights is mindful journaling. Sometimes what we really need is self-expression – to write out how we feel so that it no longer weighs so heavily on us. Mindful journaling can be self-guided or use prompts such as:
Lastly, gratitude practice is an effective before-bed exercise that can help to shift our mind from a state of fear and unease to one of appreciation and presence. This can be explored through a formal journaling practice or it can be something we quietly make note of once our head has hit the pillow. After taking a few grounding breaths with the lights off, we can ask ourselves: What am I grateful for in this very moment? What am I grateful for about my life right now? This mindful shift of attention can bring us closer towards the deep slumber we long for.
If you are using mindfulness to help you sleep better, know that the journey might take some time. Our stress response doesn’t shift overnight, and yet at the same time, rest and release is always just a breath away. Ensure that as you move through these practices, you are harnessing patience and compassion while also seeking out any other supports you need.
Again, the root causes of our personal sleep issues are individualized. To learn more about some of the other root issues worth looking at, check out our guide, 10 Mindfulness Exercises for Sleep. This guide further explores how mindfulness helps to promote healthy sleep patterns and offers simple tips we can take to consciously prepare for a restful night of slumber.