Not sleeping well can have a significant impact on how we function day to day. Mindfulness expert Rachel Long shares with us 3 ways Mindfulness can help for a better night’s sleep.
1. Mindfulness helps alleviate stress and hyper arousal
Poor sleep is often due to stress and nervous system arousal. The nervous system becomes hyper aroused through stress. When your nervous system is in a hyper aroused state, you can feel irritable, have trouble concentrating, your muscles get tight, you can be jumpy and easily startled, and there is often a sense of being vigilant.
Mindfulness teaches you how to be less reactive in stressful situations, which reduces the physiological and psychological symptoms of stress. By training in mindfulness you also become more attuned to the sensations of the body, so that you can recognise the physical symptoms of nervous system arousal early on and intervene well before bedtime.
2. Mindfulness teaches you how to get out of the trance of over-thinking
People often report that their mind just doesn’t stop on a night of poor sleep, the thoughts seem to have a consistency to them where there is no space for sleep to slip in.
You may have noticed when there is something difficult happening in your life, there is a tendency to think about it over and over? As if thinking about the difficulty just one more time is going to provide a magical solution? What actually happens though, is the excessive thinking keeps you in a loop of stressful reactivity. Where stressful thoughts perpetuate unpleasant emotions and physical tension in the body.
Mindfulness teaches ways of interrupting excessive thinking and teaches ways of changing the relationship we have with thinking. Changing thoughts is challenging, but changing the way we relate to thinking and thoughts is very workable with mindfulness training.
3. Mindfulness offers skilful ways of managing sleeplessness
It’s quite natural to have a night of little sleep every now and again. It happens to everyone for one reason or another. Mindfulness offers a number of adaptive ways we can manage night time wakefulness that doesn’t create more anxiety and more stress.
For example if awake during the night, rather than thinking unhelpful thoughts such as
“If I don’t get so many hours sleep, I’m going to feel terrible tomorrow. How will I ever function?”
you can do a mindfulness practice.
By doing a mindfulness practice, it allows you to redirect attention away from the unhelpful, anxiety producing thoughts and to turn toward the sensations of the body and the breath which are much more soothing and restful for the mind.
The other way mindfulness can help you manage sleeplessness is with your attitude and relationship to sleep. While we may not be able to quickly change our night-time alertness, we can cultivate attitudes that bring some peace to the situation. Attitudes such as letting go, acceptance, patience and self-compassion. Strangely enough, the more we can accept our dead of the night wakefulness, the more likely it is for sleep to unfold.
To train in mindfulness and to improve your sleep, check out the 6 wk Mindfulness for Better Sleep course. Starting on Wednesday 29th May 7- 9pm. Follow this LINK for full details about the course.