“Innocent sleep. Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life's feast, and the most nourishing.” Shakespeare
If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you want to know how to remedy the situation. Lack of sleep, as you already realize, results in irritability, depleted health, reduced well-being, and chronic insomnia leads to increased health difficulties and anxiety. Until now, you've probably tried numerous ways of getting to sleep that didn't work for you. Mindfulness, though, could be the answer. Here's how to make it part of your pre-sleep routine.
Your brain and body love repeat behaviors. They enjoy patterns of events they can predict like wind-down routines before you go to sleep. No doubt, you engage in specific actions before going to bed such as brushing your teeth and taking off your slippers.
These are familiar patterns, but your mind doesn't associate them with sleeping. Carrying out behaviors mindfully, though, soothes away stress and relaxes you ready for a good night's rest. Such behaviors also forge connections between sleeping and themselves, so when they are carried out, you automatically become sleepy.
How to begin your routine
Instead of brushing your teeth without thinking about what you're doing, take your time and focus on the actions of your hand as you clean your teeth. Notice the muscles of your hand clench as you hold the toothbrush and the touch of the bristles of the brush on your gums. As you work, think only of what you're doing and let all other thoughts fade.
Next, spend a few minutes in silence while you are still. Sit somewhere you won't be disturbed, shut your eyes, and place the palms of your hands on your thighs. Observe the warmth your hands create as it seeps into your body. After a minute or so, move your hands to your belly and repeat the exercise, shifting up in a short while to the top of your chest.
Clear-up daily stress
Each day comes with challenges, some big, some small. Nonetheless, no matter their size, they all result in an accumulation of stress. If you often lie in bed going through the day's difficulties, you'll benefit from cleaning them up before settling down to sleep.
While you're sitting, after instilling a sense of peace, keep your eyes closed and ask yourself whether you lost energy during the day to an event you found stressful. Perhaps you burned dinner or had a difficult conversation. Or you may have received an unexpected bill that made you shudder or stubbed your toe.
Go through all energy-sapping events that made you anxious, however slight, and imagine the energy you lost returning to your system. Feel it stream into your body, relaxing you. All the while, breathe deeply, noting the air filling your lungs and expanding your chest. If unrelated thoughts arise, let them go and return your attention to the exercise.
Settle in bed
When you are in bed, spend a few moments getting comfortable. Be mindful of the position of your torso, arms, legs, and neck. Notice the sensation of your head sinking into the pillow, observe the weight of your body, and be aware of your body touching the mattress.
By the time you've engaged in the mindful exercises mentioned, you will be so relaxed you'll rest with ease. The more you practice, the sooner your wind-down routine will become a habit that leads to regular, peaceful sleep.
AnJenette Afridi, MA, ERYT-500, is a pioneer in Lifestyle Medicine, Mindful-Based Strategies, and Creator of INHALE EXHALE SMILE℠ Meditation and Mindfulness Targeted Skills-Based Training. AnJenette is a Lifestyle Medicine Consultant and a Meditation and Mindfulness Master Teacher with 30+ years in private practice. “AJ’s” professional credentials include a Master’s Degree in Psychology (MA) 1997, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (ERYT-500) 2002, American Psychological Association (APA) Member 1996, American College of Lifestyle Medicine Member, Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine Member, and Harvard Medical School CEU’s in Lifestyle Medicine and Mind Body Medicine (Herbert Benson, MD) the last 15 years.
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AnJenette aka AJ has worked with corporations, hospitals, health centers, schools, and private clientele including adults and children. She is often featured at public and private in-person and online events, and she hosts events as well. AJ's warmth, credibility, and energetic sense of humor create an atmosphere that supports expansion, creativity, and abundant possibility.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issue or disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this article and will not be held responsible for the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal health care provider for specific medical advice.