You can either focus on your stress, or you can focus on your breath — if you choose the latter, you may have easy access to a great night’s sleep.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that participants who did mindfulness meditation practices for six weeks developed better quality sleep and had reduced sleep-related daytime impairment. What is it specifically about meditation that helped these participants fight their insomnia? The simple fact that meditation helps you let go of your day before bed.
At Unplug, we get a lot of questions about when the best time to meditate is and our advice is always the same — whenever you have time to do it. For me, the morning is my best time, because I wake up, get it done and move on with my day. But for many others who suffer from insomnia and can’t sleep due to overthinking, or waking up in the middle of the night, meditation may be a lifesaver.
So how does it work? Think of it as compartmentalizing your thoughts, visualizing the act of putting thoughts away in a box and getting back to them later. You use your breath to slow down, unwind, and calm your central nervous system. When you can’t sleep, it’s usually because you’re anxious thinking about what happened that day or what might happen tomorrow, but meditation helps you be in the present moment.
Here are our our top seven ways to find relaxation for a better night’s sleep:
1) Set yourself up for relaxation by completely cleaning your room — a messy room can create a messy mind, which can create stress.
2) Get some lavender essential oil — you can put a couple drops in your hand, rub it on your pillow or use a diffuser — lavender sends a signal to your brain to relax.
3) Count backwards from 99 where you count your breaths on the inhale — *inhale, 99, exhale*, *inhale, 98, exhale*, etc. This becomes so monotonous and boring that, for me, it always does the trick.
4) Try alternate nostril breathing*, a technique I learned from teacher Sara Ivanhoe:
A. Lie down and close your eyes.
B. Take the first and second fingers of your right hand and place them on what’s called your “third eye,” the spot between your eyebrows and up about 1⁄2 inch. If you’re hitting the middle of your forehead, that’s too high.
C. Place your right thumb over your right nostril.
D. Slowly breathe into your left nostril, for as long as you can.
E. Then release your thumb and hold your left nostril down with your right pinky, breathing out your right nostril.
F. Alternate in this way, breathing in one nostril and out the other for three minutes, and you’ll feel transformed!
5) Gratitude — jot down three or more things of what you’re grateful for. Gratitude redirects your brain to the positive rather than stewing in the negative thoughts and feelings that may be keeping you up at night.
6.) Play relaxing, ambient meditation music.
7) Most importantly, meditate before bed!
*Source: Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation For Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul-Seekers by Suze Yalof Schwartz