The Ultimate Guide to Mindfulness for Sleep

Sleep is a critical component of overall well-being. It doesn’t just heal your body; it heals your mind. A good night’s rest can change how you interact with the world by elevating your mood and improving your concentration. But in our fast-paced world, increased feelings of stress and anxiety can prevent people from tapping into the healing power of sleep.

1. Say goodnight to your devices: Falling asleep means eliminating distractions, and smartphones are a likely distraction culprit. Not only will a phone or tablet lighting up your bedside table disturb your sleeping patterns, but these screens also emit blue light, which affects your brain by increasing alertness and reducing levels of sleep-inducing melatonin. It’s best to give your devices a break before bedtime.

2. Don’t force it: “Fake it until you make it” applies to sleep, too. The pressure of trying to fall asleep could have an adverse effect and heighten feelings of stress. By practicing mindfulness and embracing the moment, sleep will usually come naturally.

3. Try a body scan meditation: Body scans are effective mindfulness meditations for sleep. Start by noticing sensations in your body and your breathing. When your attention wanders, see if you can just take note of that and gently center your thoughts. When we allow ourselves to be with what’s here, the body naturally goes to rest, which is what it wants to do.

It is recommended you allow about 30 or 40 minutes to let yourself really investigate this practice. But if you don’t have that much time, utilize whatever time you have. You might want to lay down, but you can also do it sitting up, especially if that makes it easier for you to stay awake.

  1. Closing your eyes can be helpful to allow you to focus or, if you’d rather, you can always lower and half-close your eyes.
  2. Bring awareness to the body breathing in and out, noticing touch and pressure where it makes contact with the seat or floor. Throughout this practice, allow as much time as you need or want to experience and investigate each area of the body.
  3. When you’re ready (no rush), intentionally breathe in, and move your attention to whatever part of the body you want to investigate. You might choose to do a systematic body scan beginning at the head or feet. Or, you might choose to explore sensations randomly. Enjoy!
  4. Sensations might include buzzing, or tingling, pressure, tightness or temperature, or anything else you notice. What if you don’t notice any strong sensations or things feel neutral?  You can simply notice that, too. There are no right answers. Just tune in to what’s present, as best you can, without judgement. You’ll notice judgement puts a different spin on things.
  5. The main point is being curious and open to what you are noticing, investigating the sensations as fully as possible, and then intentionally releasing the focus of attention before shifting to the next area to explore.
  6. At some point, you’ll notice Elvis and your attention have left the building. Yup. Great noticing! You’ll quickly discover that you can’t stop your attention from wandering. Sorry ’bout that. But over time you can train it to stay for longer periods: train it, not force it, there’s a difference.
  7. Each time your attention wanders, simply notice that this is happening, then gently and kindly (it’s really important that you don’t try to force anything) direct your attention back to exploring sensations in the body. Rinse and repeat until you’ve finished your entire body exploration.
  8. Neuroscience tells us that noticing drifting attention, and gently returning our focus to wherever we’ve placed it, over and over, is how we create new pathways in the brain.
  9. At the end of this exploration of bodily sensations, spend a few moments to expand your attention to feeling your entire body breathing freely.
  10. Open your eyes if they have been closed. Move mindfully into this moment.

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