A while back, I wrote a piece called ‘How on Earth do I get to sleep?’ in which I gave ten tips for a good night’s sleep. Today, I’d like to extend this with some mindfulness activities to try.
I’ve struggled with insomnia in the past so I know first-hand just how much impact this lack of sleep can have on your mood, thoughts, habits and actions the following day. In the last few years, as I’ve got a better handle on my lifestyle choices; as I’ve learned to manage my anxiety, rather than have it managing me; my sleeping habits are now pretty good. But I still have those occasional nights when a change in the routine/hormones/a problem can cause a restless night.
On nights like this, I turn to one, more or all of these practices. Aside from actually helping me get to sleep, I find that these meditations really help to quieten down that angry, frustrated voice inside that just really wants to be asleep.
Can’t sleep? Don’t fancy counting sheep? Why not try…
- Focus on your breath: Just begin to notice what your breathing is like; the feel of it going into your nostrils; the length; the temperature. You can experiment with changing your breath, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Maybe try inhaling to 4, holding for 1, exhaling to 6. Or you can just notice what it’s like.
- Send your attention to behind your eyes: I love this one though I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of the most tangible methods of sending your attention to somewhere in your body. It’s basically like looking with your eyes closed and it’s quite a powerful feeling to bring your attention there.
- Body Scan: This is a great one to get to sleep, but also to repeat if you wake up too soon. Bring your attention up from your toes to your head, sending attention to all the different places and parts in your body, noticing any sensations of tightness/discomfort and allowing them to relax. Personally, I find that a good crunching/tensing/clenching of the muscles really allows me to feel that tension fall away.
- Guided Meditation: Search ‘Guided Meditation Sleep’ on YouTube and you’ll get a ton of great results. Though there are problems with this option, in that often you’re either at risk waking someone else up, or cutting off circulation with earphone wires; it’s well-worth the effort to overcome these issues. If your mind is spinning, you might find that following a spoken journey is easier to bring awareness to than something like breath. One of my favourites is a boat ride to a meadow, where I lay down in the sun. Each time I perform this meditation, the place feels more and more real; more like home.
- Watch your thoughts: Sometimes this one is my last resort when my mind is just racing and it’s becoming a bit of a battle. I figure, if I’m going to lie here overthinking anyway, then I’ll at least notice what I’m thinking about from a distance. I mentally take a step back and just notice my thoughts. e.g. “Oh I’m thinking that I’m worried about tomorrow. Oh now I picturing that negative scenario happening again.” Even if the thoughts aren’t good, having this distance makes a huge difference on how my body and brain reacts. If I find that I’m pulled into a thought, I just acknowledge this and step back again.
With all of these meditations, thoughts will push their way in. That’s okay – it’s ‘normal’ – it’s inevitable! Just notice that you noticed your attention has drifted (this is the best, brain-strengthening bit) and bring your attention back to what you were focusing on/listening to.
Sleep tight! xx