Having problems sleeping? Well you are not alone, it is increasingly becoming a problem. The NHS believe that one in three people in the UK are regularly affected by poor sleep patterns. Mind the mental health charity state that “Poor sleep leads to worrying. Worrying leads to poor sleep. Worrying about sleep is like your mind trying to fight itself”.
So how can meditating help me I hear you ask?
Well I believe mindfulness meditation is a skill that can help us have focused relaxation. Meditation might not make you go to sleep but rather it increases your awareness and understanding of the mind at night. This then often results in sleep. So why not try these 10 simple steps to a better nights sleep.
Lying comfortably in bed, take three deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. As you breathe in, try to get a sense of the lungs filling with air and the chest expanding. As you breathe out, imagine the thoughts and feelings of the day just disappearing into the distance, and any feelings of tension in the body just melting away. This will help both the body and the mind to relax and let go of the day’s events.
Check in with your-self. How you’re feeling right now? Remember you can’t rush relaxation, so you can not rush sleep. Take your time here. Let your mind work, no need to try and stop your thoughts, just let the brain do its thing. No need to push thoughts away, just become aware of what your thinking and feeling in the body.
Next we start to become more aware of our body. Bring your attention back to the sensation of the body touching the bed, the weight of the body sinking down into the mattress. Notice where the points of contact are strongest. Notice any sounds or other sensations. Sounds can be especially disturbing when you’re trying to go to sleep. At first it’s helpful to recognise whether it’s a sound you can change, or if it’s something outside of your control, something you can do nothing about. Rather than resisting the sound, gently rest your attention on it, remaining with the sound for 30 seconds or so, before bringing your attention back to the body.
Now get a sense of how the body feels. Does the body feel heavy or light, restless or still? Try to get a more accurate picture by mentally scanning down through the body, from the head to the toes, gently observing any tension or tightness. You can do this scan several times, taking about 30 seconds each time. Remember to notice the areas that feel relaxed and comfortable, as well as any areas of discomfort.
By now you will have probably noticed the rising and falling sensation of the breath, but if you haven’t, just bring your attention to that place in the body where you feel the movement the most. There is no need to change the rhythm of the breath. Just allow the body to do its own thing. There is no right or wrong way to breathe here, so don’t worry if you feel it more in the chest than the stomach. Notice whether the breath is deep or shallow, long or short, smooth or irregular.
As you watch the breath for a minute or two, it’s quite normal for the mind to wander off. When it does, you’ve been distracted, so in that moment you are back in the present, and all you need do is gently return the focus to the rising and falling sensation. You can just naturally move on to the next section when it feels as if a couple of minutes has passed.
This next part of the exercise is about thinking back through your day in a focused way. Begin by thinking back to the very first moment you can remember in the day, right after waking up in the morning. Do you remember how you felt upon waking? Now, as if your brain has been set to a very gentle “fast-forward,” simply watch as your mind replays the events, meetings and conversations of the day. This doesn’t need to be in detail, it’s more of an overview, a series of snapshots passing through the mind. Take about three minutes to go through the entire day, right up to the present moment. It might seem like a lot to fit into just a few minutes, but this is only an overview of the day, so there is no need to take any longer than three minutes. As the mind replays the day, there is the inevitable temptation to jump in and get caught up in the thinking. It’s normal for the mind to wander like this, but obviously it’s not helpful to get involved in new thinking at this time of night. So, as before, when you realise you’ve been distracted, gently return to the film playing back in your mind and pick up where you left off.
Having brought yourself up to the present moment, you can now return your focus to the body. Place your attention on the small toe of the left foot and imagine that you’re just switching it off for the night. You can even repeat the words “switch off” or “rest” in your mind as you focus on the toe. It’s as if you’re giving the muscles, joints, bones and everything else permission to switch off for the night
Repeat this for the next toe, and the next, and so on. Continue in this way through the foot, up into the ankle, the lower half of the leg and so on all the way up to the hip and pelvic area. Before you repeat this exercise with the right leg, take a moment to notice the difference in the feeling between the leg that has been “switched off” and the one that hasn’t. Repeat the same exercise on the right leg, once again starting with the toes and working your way all the way up to the waist.
Continue this exercise up through the torso, down through the arms, hands and fingers, and up through the throat, neck, face and head. Take a moment to enjoy the sensation of being free of tension, of not needing to do anything with the body, of having given up control. You can now allow the mind to wander as much as it wants, freely associating from one thought to the next, no matter where it wants to go, until you drift off to sleep.
It’s quite possible that by the time you’ve reached this point in the exercise you will be fast asleep. If you are, enjoy the rest and sleep well. Don’t worry if you’re not asleep though — it’s not that you’ve done the exercise wrong. Remember that it’s not an exercise to make you go to sleep, but rather an exercise to increase your awareness and understanding of your mind at night.
Upcoming Event in March @ Beehive Healthcare
17th March - Mindfully Boost your Confidence
How often have you talked yourself out of something before you have even tried? Come along and learn 7 steps to mindfully boost your confidence through a range of meditations, mindfulness and coaching techniques.
Investment £20 and includes worksheets to aid your practice
Contact Simon@MindfulChimp.com to book or for more information