Sleep is a big part of our life: we spend about one-third of our entire life sleeping! That is because sleep is extremely important for our bodies. It allows our mind to rest and enhances concentration, memory and focus. In a more physical sense, it also helps our immune system and encourages better eating habits (food + sleep = energy).
Still, one of the most common complaints is people not sleeping well. About 35 to 50% of the global adult population exhibit certain insomnia symptoms. This is mainly due to the fast-paced life we live in modern times. We’re constantly following our busy schedules and looking at screens, in particular before bed, which jumbles our natural sleep patterns.
This means that the hunt for ways to improve sleep is ever-growing. And here is where the world of mindfulness and meditation comes in.
What is mindfulness?
Chances are you’ve heard about it, but sometimes the descriptions may be a bit wishy washy. At its core, mindfulness encompasses every practice that focuses on being present. It allows you to become aware of the moment, of what you’re feeling, your bodily sensations and thoughts. Through concentration, you can ground your body and thoughts, making you less stressed and anxious.
Mindfulness meditations find tactics to help you achieve this. Especially before sleeping, when we may get stuck inside our heads. By following these methods we can lower our heart rate and slow our breathing, aiding us to fall asleep.
Who can practice mindfulness?
Anyone! It can seem a bit scary at first, but anyone can do it. You might need some guidance, but that is part of the learning process which benefits all. There are plenty of
mindfulness meditation websites and apps you can try for free. So try and explore what’s out there, and you’ll find something that helps you.
How exactly does it help me sleep?
Studies have shown that practising mindfulness is reliable and effective in many cases. They soothe your mind and body and improve not just the hours you sleep, but more importantly, the quality of it.
Breathing exercises help you regulate your anxiousness and relax your muscles, which signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Body scanning, another popular tactic, aids in gaining awareness of your body and how tense/relaxed it feels. It involves concentrating on the feelings of your body parts touching the bed and trying to consciously relax them. Silence can also be a good tactic because it allows you to pause and regain focus after a long day.
Meditation and mindfulness are simple ways to try and improve your sleep. You don’t need any special training or strange tools, just your want to breathe and let go for a little while. Besides, by enhancing your sleep you will consequently have a better, more rested day. With just a few minutes a day, you can make a great improvement!
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach here.
Ana Dantas is in the last year of her Bachelor’s in Psychology at the University of Porto. She is currently an intern at Willingness within the Health Clinic, with a special interest in neuroscience and social psychology.
Headspace. (2014). Meditation for Sleep. Headspace.com. https://www.headspace.com/ meditation/sleep
Jerath, R., Beveridge, C., & Barnes, V. A. (2019). Self-Regulation of Breathing as an Adjunctive Treatment of Insomnia. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 780. https://doi.org/ 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00780 Nunez, K. (2020). 3 Ways to Meditate for Better Sleep. Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-sleep