Having a hard time sleeping? You’re not alone. The World Health Organisation has declared a sleep loss epidemic. Sleep loss contributes to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, obesity and decreased wellbeing. If you’re tormented by lack of sleep could mindfulness provide the answer? We investigate mindfulness and sleep and ask; Will mindfulness help me sleep?
Brain at Work: Doing Mode
It’s all too familiar, lying awake at night, tossing and turning to the churning of your mind raking over the minutiae of the day. It’s what the brain does and it’s great when you have a task that needs solving. Doing mode is your brain at it’s peak problem solving best. We need doing mode. It helps us to solve problems and find solutions to the conundrums of life. The problem begins when your brain uses the same mechanism for emotional issues.
The Default Mode Network
As soon as you switch off, your default mode network (DMN) switches on. Perversely the DMN is at it’s most active when you’re resting. So, if something is bothering you when you hit the sack, your brain busies itself, sifting and sorting your experiences as it tries to make sense of the world and find a ‘solution’. That’s when our thinking starts to feel like overdrive, prompting the questions “Why can’t I sleep?” or “What’s wrong with me that I can’t switch off?” instantly adding another layer to your sleep loss dilemma. The answer? Shifting into being mode with mindfulness. But, will mindfulness help me sleep?
Will Mindfulness help me Sleep?
Yes if you practice mindfulness on a regular basis. Mindfulness helps us to choose mode, to change gear and shift into being mode. Mindfulness offers us a way to train our brain and re-wire and disable the default mode when we rest. Practicing mindfulness enables you to recognise that your thoughts are just thoughts, they don’t represent reality.
Mindfulness and Sleep Research
A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for chronic insomnia discovered that mindfulness is an effective treatment for adults with chronic insomnia providing an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical based treatments. It seems that building mindfulness into day and your bedtime sleep hygiene routine will pay dividends.
Mindfulness and Sleep
Here are three mindfulness practices that will help you to conquer your sleeplessness.
- Clouds. When you lay down and the DMN steps in, attempting to solve your emotional problems by turning the day over and over, conjure clouds. Imagine that you are sitting on top of a mountain and that those thoughts are clouds. you watch each cloud coming towards you, noticing the shape of each cloud, it’s size and colour, without judgement. Watch each cloud pass over head, bringing an attitude of curiosity to your observations. Imagine pleasant thoughts as white clouds, and the unpleasant thoughts as dark clouds. Acknowledge each cloud, allowing them to move on.
- Develop a mindful sleep hygiene routine. Start to wind down an hour before sleep, ditching devices, screens and anything that emits a blue light. In the same way toy wash and clean your teeth when you wake in the morning, devise similar nighttime habits. Make a warm drink, try one of the many nighttime teas on the market to help you get ready for your Zs.
- Body Scan. As you lay in bed, relax your body and settle into a gentle breathing rhythm. Move your focus to your toes, noticing any sensations there. Ask yourself what’s here? as you scan your toes, the spaces in between your toes. Leave the toes and shift your attention to the soles of your feet and then your ankles. Move up your body, stage by stage observing each sensation without judgment. The body scan will help you to notice and become aware of your body in being mode. If you get distracted, it’s ok, just acknowledge your focus has drifted and return to the area of the body you were scanning.
Want to know more about mindfulness and sleep? Watch out for our guided meditation for sleep anxiety, mindfulness sleep exercises and mindfulness sleep music available soon.
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