4 Ways Mindfulness Can Help You Sleep Better Tonight
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How to train your mind and body to sleep better
For all the troubles we go through to have better health and productivity, it’s astonishing how we discount the importance of sleep. Instead, we change our diets, learn to manage our tasks better, optimize our schedules, and do tons of other things to improve our lives.
Few people realize that the quality of our sleep has a great impact on our days. It can shift our moods, emotions, and even perceptions. Stay up all night and you’ll find everything to be a cause of irritation the other day. Alas, this is the state many of us are often in.
The main problem with sleep is not that we don’t take out time for it. Instead, the real problem is we don’t know how to improve it. Invariably we suffer from sleep issues that keep us from living to our full potential even if we want to.
The way out of this predicament is to manage your mind and body in a way that makes it easier for you to fall asleep. Here’s how you do that.
Keeping Stress at Bay Throughout the Day
Stress is the hidden warrior of Satan that ruins people’s lives. Many health issues manifest due to prolonged stress of the body and mind. Since many of us are not even mindful of the fact that we’re stressed, we can’t get rid of it.
This affects, most of all, our sleep and creates the perfect combination for deteriorating health. If your mind and body are not at peace, you can’t sleep well. And if you can’t sleep well, you can’t put your mind and body to peace. It’s a vicious cycle we need to get out of.
High stress leads to high levels of adrenaline and cortisol in your system. The former makes it difficult to fall asleep, while the latter wakes you up in the middle of the night.
The way to improve our sleep is to manage our stress levels throughout the day. This means having healthy boundaries at work, taking short breaks regularly, and changing our perception of stressful situations.
However, the key point I want to mention is this — all of the above habits can be developed using a consistent mindfulness practice which helps us be more in the present moment. When your mind is running in a hundred different directions it’s easy to burn out, skip meals and run like a headless chicken.
The way I use this insight primarily is to have mindfulness alarms throughout the day that help me check my stress levels and come back to center. Whenever the bell rings, you can check in with your body and your mind.
See if you’re tense, hungry, thirsty, had too much caffeine, etc. Without the steady application of mindfulness, we can never solve the problem completely.
In a frenzy to get our work done, we ignore the signals our bodies give us. Pushing past these signals may work occasionally, but prolonged ignorance only brings suffering.
The best way is to use mindfulness to cultivate an acute awareness of the body so we can remove stress before it even manifests.
Shift Your Perception to Keep Anxiety Away
Stress and anxiety are different in the sense that the latter is more persistent than the former. Usually, at least in my case, anxiety is caused by thinking or perceiving situations in a negative manner.
More often than not, these perceptions are false. To the person who’s having them, however, they seem completely valid. Thus, we keep having endless thoughts that entangle the mind and make us anxious indefinitely.
This is one of the main reasons many people aren’t able to go to sleep without some kind of stimulant — TV, Netflix, drugs, drinks, etc. They’re not able to consciously untangle the mess in their head and opt for the easier alternative of mindlessness transitioning into subconsciousness.
Every time you have an anxious thought, the body triggers a fight-or-flight response even if you’re lying in bed. The resultant hormones thus induce an uncomfortable feeling of anxiety.
The way to overcome this is to first observe your thoughts dispassionately and impersonally. Learn to recognize that they’re not doing you any good. Learn that they don’t reflect reality but only a construct of the mind. Over time, you will get better at this mental practice.
The second practice, right after the first one, is to breathe deeply and meditate. This will help to calm the mind and body, making it easier to drift off to sleep.
Be Mindful of What You Eat and Drink
According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American spends two-and-a-half hours a day eating. But more than half of that time, we’re doing something else — checking the news, working, talking, watching TV, and so on.
This habit of eating mindlessly, as directed by our whims and fancies, maybe the reason not only for obesity but also other health issues like bad sleep.
Why? Because we have sugary drinks, sweets, desserts, caffeine, and other seemingly harmless things that cause our blood sugar levels to spike, making it difficult to go to bed.
Mindful eating, then, is a great way to improve sleep and perhaps lose some weight! Being more aware of what you’re eating helps you fix your emotional eating tendencies making it easier to eat the right foods.
Anything you eat post-lunch specifically has the power to make or break your sleep. Your aim with this approach is to maintain your blood sugar levels throughout the day so they don’t dip at night.
Don’t eat just about anything you set your eyes on. Think, be aware and make a conscious choice.
Build Mental Attitudes To Support Sleep
As we’ve learned, we try our best to fall asleep but the mind always comes in between. But there are certain mental attitudes in life that can make it easier to fall asleep at the end of the day.
This can be cured by allowing yourself to let go of the day at night and bring an attitude of acceptance. Doing this will help you avoid stressing over life’s circumstances and reduce any latent stress that you might have.
Be kind to yourself especially before you go to sleep. Realize that you’ve done everything you could and that a new day awaits you. At the same time, avoid thinking too much about the next day — it will take care of itself
Sleep is a natural process and you can’t force it. Therefore, don’t try to sleep by brute force. Instead, surrender to the process and let go. Sleep will then come naturally when the time is right.
The above tips are not at all what one might expect in an article about improving your sleep. But I wanted to address some of the esoteric reasons why we aren’t able to sleep properly.
By working on the above, you will train the mind and body to be in a state of relaxation throughout the day which makes falling asleep much easier.
These tips, along with basic sleep hygiene, have gotten me the best improvements in sleep to a point where I no longer have to worry about it.
Though using mindfulness to fall asleep may seem overly simple, it is nonetheless effective. Don’t dismiss it without trying because you may just find yourself getting the best sleep of your life!