Do you struggle to get to sleep no matter how worn out and tired you are? Do you lie awake for hours, anxiously watching the clock and getting more and more frustrated?
Being unable to sleep is a miserable way to spend your night-time hours and the effects on your life can be devastating.
It can make you feel irritable and short-tempered – putting a strain on your relationships at home and work. It can make it difficult to concentrate and focus on things. And it can leave you feeling flat, drowsy, anxious or depressed throughout the entire day.
There’s no doubt, insomnia takes a heavy toll on your energy, your mood and your ability to function during the day. And over time, chronic insomnia can actually contribute to serious health concerns.
The thing to remember is that insomnia is not a disease in its own right. It’s a symptom of other problems. And one of the main causes, as reported in Psychology Today by mindfulness-based psychotherapist Peter Strong, is STRESS.
Thankfully, your ability to cope with stress is something you can learn to control. And in turn, you can overcome your insomnia and sleep problems.
And once your sleep improves, your entire world will open up. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed and clear headed. You’ll feel happier and in a better mood. You’ll be more productive and able to cope with work and family pressures. Your health will improve and you will feel as if you have a new lease of life. And one of the most effective tools for helping you achieve this has been found to be mindfulness.
Various studies now suggest that mindfulness meditation — a mind-calming practice that focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment — can be a tremendous help with insomnia.
One such study from JAMA Internal Medicine involved around 50 adults who were suffering from sleep problems. Half completed a mindfulness program in which they learned meditation and other exercises while the other half completed a sleep education class that taught them more traditional ways to improve their sleep habits.
Both groups met once a week for two hours over the course of six weeks and at the end of the course those in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression than those in the sleep education classes.
One of the reasons for these results is thought to be that mindfulness techniques evoke what is known as the’ relaxation response’.
The relaxation response, a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine., is a deep physiological shift in the body which helps reduce physical and psychological tension making it easier to switch off, relax and fall asleep.
So how do you practice mindfulness and get a good night’s sleep?
Mindfulness practice basically involves bringing your attention to the present without getting caught up in worries and other negative thought patterns. This very simple practice helps you detach and break free from the constant ‘racing thoughts’ and annoying physical sensations which plague you when you struggle to sleep.
By practicing mindfulness techniques during the day, for as little as 10-15 minutes, you effectively train your body to relax so that it becomes easier to evoke the relaxation response at night when you can’t sleep.