Can mindful breathing, silent meditation with bells or a single mindful meditation help you get a better night’s sleep? A study published in The JAMA Network Journal answers this question in the affirmative. Often, what keeps us awake at night is ‘too much past or too much future’, as Eckhart Tolle warns us against. Negative thought cycles can raise our heart rate, make us breathe faster, and even bring about a state of panic when night falls, which is exactly the time when we should be winding down and getting the restful sleep we need.
Poor Sleep is a Global Epidemic
Across the globe, millions of people are sleep-deprived. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that over a third of Americans are sleeping less than the recommended minimum of seven hours, with serious consequences for their health. Poor sleep has been found in numerous studies to increase the risk for obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Although treatments exist to help people combat insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions that can affect sleep, many have side-effects, which is why holistic approaches such as mindfulness meditation are so often recommended by doctors.
How Can Mindfulness Meditation Help?
The JAMA study found that mindfulness meditation practice improved sleep quality in persons with moderate sleep disturbance. The researchers, who focused their research on older adults, noted that effects were similar to those achieved by clinical treatment. They recommended mindful meditation as a natural way to reduce sleep problems and related daytime problems (such as day fatigue), since this approach is effective yet has no side-effects. Other research by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has shown that meditation may be effective in battling insomnia. This study focused on subjects aged between 25 and 45.
Bedroom Design is Equally Important
Insomnia or frequent waking needs to be approached from a multi-faceted perspective, including that of bedroom design. In order to sleep in accordance with the body’s circadian rhythms and make your way through all important sleep cycles, you should ensure your bedroom is completely dark and silent so aren’t frequently woken up. Your mattress should also be comfortable and should be the right firmness for your sleeping position. Online mattress reviews stress the importance of opting for a firm bed if you sleep on your back or stomach. This will enable you to wake up free of pain and feeling refreshed and renewed.
Batting Stress throughout the Day
In addition to practicing mindfulness meditation at night, you should also make an effort to keep stress levels down in the daytime. During your lunch break or if you have a free moment in the morning or afternoon, practice a breathing exercise or simply visit a natural spot, opening your senses to the beauty around you and aiming to simply ‘be in the here and now’. Try to avoid stress triggers throughout the day; these can include people and/or situations which are negative forces in your life. If you feel anxiety setting in, pause even for a minute or two and do controlled breathing exercises. You will be surprised at how immediately your heart and breathing rates slow down, stopping panic from taking hold.
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful way to achieve better sleep in a natural way. Back up your mindfulness practice with optimal bedroom design, and make an effort to embrace a more peaceful life. When you feel overburdened, escape to a beautiful natural setting; nature has the unique power to instill a sense of wonder and bring the mind to the present at times when we most need it.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at Sean@MindfulnessExercises.com
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