It’s increasingly evident that a good night’s sleep works wonders for your mood, energy and the long-term health of your brain and body. And despite most of us knowing the ‘right’ things to do – a regular routine, keeping the bedroom tech-free and so on – it can still be hard to get those eight hours every night. Mindfulness is a well-being practice that’s been on the radar for a while, and guess what – you can use it to improve your sleep too.
Mindfulness is all about acceptance of, but not dwelling on, thoughts and feelings, and instead focusing on your breath and being in the moment.
In this sense, trying to force yourself to fall asleep – or resisting being awake – is a non-starter.
Learn to move from a place of resistance to one of allowing it to be – since it’s already here. Paradoxically, by letting go of the need to fall asleep, you may find that your sleep improves.
The links between mindfulness and better sleep are so strong that mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI) is being practiced by mental
health therapists. Guided meditation and adjusting mindset are key, so start your journey to better sleep by following some of Anna’s simple bedtime practices.
What’s your bedtime story?
When you resist your personal sleep experience and want it to be different, it can lead to disappointment. You may create mental stories about it,
catastrophising (‘This is a nightmare’), generalizing (‘I’m never able to sleep’), blaming (‘This is all my fault – or someone else’s’), judging (‘I should be able to sleep’), and so on. You can get caught up in the tales, but actually they are just a reflection of your state of mind.
Break the cycle by becoming aware of the different stories. Then you can choose how to respond. For example… Name the monsters: Notice what story is in your head tonight – perhaps it’s the ‘all my fault’ tale. Acknowledge it but don’t give yourself a hard time. The more you do this, the more you’ll notice that it’s the same old ‘monsters’ reappearing. You can introduce a bit of fun and give each one a silly name, which undermines them so you gain more perspective.
Your perceived amount of sleep: Once, after a broken night, I told a friend ‘It was terrible – I was awake for hours’. I felt exhausted. Yet when I looked at my fitness tracker’s sleep monitor, it recorded eight and a half hours’ sleep.
Reading that made me feel better (despite knowing they’re not always accurate). My perception had changed. It’s healthier to become familiar with
your body’s signals and respond when it feels tired or refreshed, rather than focus on what you think you experienced.
Shifting out of your head: You can also notice how a story is manifesting in your body, since negative stories often generate uncomfortable sensations. Bring a friendly interest to whatever you notice physically and emotionally, and remind yourself there’s no need to do anything to fix or change what you become aware of.