The benefits of mindfulness are many – healthier perspective, increased productivity, and an easier time relaxing. But how does mindfulness deliver these perks? Are they all independent of one another, or could they stem from one major improvement mindfulness practitioners experience?
The Battle for Quality Sleep
Experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Yet more than one-quarter of us struggle with periods of insomnia. Just ten percent of us deal with chronic insomnia.
Knowing you’re not getting enough sleep, and seeing the impact it has on our memory and mood, can create bedtime anxiety. How many times have you gone to bed or woken up in the middle of the night, only to fret about how “useless” you’re going to be when it’s time to get up?
We know what quality sleep should be. Quality sleep means we get the recommended amount (or as close as we can manage). We fall asleep within the first half-hour of going to bed and wake up just once per night, drifting back off with relative ease.
Could mindfulness be the best natural way to get quality sleep?
Daytime Mindfulness = Restful Sleep
A study published by the New York Academy of Sciences has produced some encouraging findings. For one, it suggests that mindfulness may be a better treatment for sleep problems than some of the other advice we’ve gotten.
This includes a lot of sleep hygiene advice – removing screens from the bedroom, being in your bed only when it is time to sleep, and sticking to a rigid sleep routine. Moreover, mindfulness can improve sleep quality for an extended period of time. Some participants used mindfulness for a full year of great sleep!
How does it work? It may come down to the very basics – thought awareness. We are in better control of our reactions and emotions when we are keenly aware of what we’re thinking. For example, if you start having an anxiety-producing thought, but are able to mindfully note that you’re having it, you’re less likely to let it spiral into obsessive worry.
Researchers have no idea how long you have to practice mindfulness before it takes effect. However, they do recommend making mindfulness a waking practice, not a bedtime one. Do a mindfulness meditation daily, and the effects can take hold at night.
Of course, there are plenty of us who won’t see instant effects. If you still wake or cannot fall asleep, go ahead and try the following tips.
⦁ Do a brief body scan or try progressive muscle relaxation while lying in bed.
⦁ Continue noting thoughts related to sleep anxiety. Remind yourself that your thoughts do not have to determine the future.
⦁ Stop keeping track of time. The one sleep hygiene tip we should all follow is making sure the clock isn’t visible.
⦁ Accept sleeplessness. Being aware of insomnia does not make it easier to fall asleep. On the contrary, it stresses us out. Just like in meditation, practice noting these thoughts from your unattached observer position. Picture them floating down the river, or across a night sky.
What do you think? Does mindfulness improve our lives in so many ways because it improves sleep? What do you do when you have trouble sleeping?