A few months ago, I found myself having a hard time sleeping. I was irritable the next day and groggy. In addition, I woke up stressing over my to-do list and the tasks I may have forgotten or feared I had forgotten. In a conversation with my coworker, she gave me insight to a potential solution. She had been researching the benefits of mindfulness, specifically in regards to sleep quality in college students. Intrigued, I decided to look into it more.
In doing so, I discovered just exactly what mindfulness meant. Mindfulness can be defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/) This may seem simple enough, but because of the increased levels of anxiety, many people have trouble with this type of skill and relaxation headspace.
In a study done by the University of Minnesota, sleep disturbance was found to be in relation to the participant’s level of anxiety, worry, and stress. To reduce the number of sleep disturbances, the study suggests mindfulness-based meditation and techniques improve sleep quality. After a few more searches and considerations, I decided to look for specific things I could do to practice mindfulness.
Here is what I have found: Practice meditation before bed
Again, seems simple enough, but what does it really mean?! I found a simple three-step meditation practice to increase my mindfulness before bed in hopes of better sleep.
The Three-Step Method I used:
The first step was to find an environment that would be distraction-free. From there, you may choose to sit or lie down. The important thing is you choose what makes you feel the most comfortable.
- Shut your eyes and breathe
Being someone who has a hard time sitting still and resting, I was discouraged by my inability to relax right away. Once I learned to shift my focus to my breathing, I found the rest of my body relaxing as well. Inhale and exhale deeply. Box breathing is also an option and added tool to your kit if you have higher levels of anxiety.
No, this step is not a green light or excuse to blast Elsa’s hit song wherever you are right now. Instead, it means to let go of any thoughts that may pop up during this exercise. Let it go and redirect your mind to your breathing.
Doing this mediation right now will not guarantee a perfect soundless sleep tonight. There are many other mindfulness techniques that go deeper and may be better tailored to you.
Many psychologists will argue that meditation does not only improve sleep quality but can indicate higher reports of happiness and life satisfaction. In addition, meditation practices are available to anyone and everyone who has some time to participate in them. Whether it is an hour or three minutes, setting aside time to moderate in some capacity will be beneficial to one’s overall health and well being.
To move into more in depth meditations, I have provided Positive Psychology’s recommended practices as an additional resource. This resource allows you to choose from meditations that have multiple sessions to choose some that only take about three minutes. You may also choose to participate in one tailored to your present emotion or feeling.
Just because you do not see results of perfect sleep immediately, trust that the mindfulness method has been proven to provide better sleep as well as a happier life. Who would not want that? These specific medications may not be the perfect fit for you, but it could be the first mindfulness practice in your journey to using mindfulness as a tool to increase your sleep quality.
In conclusion, mindfulness and meditation practices can increase sleep conditions. Hopefully, mindfulness will become a healthy habit that avoids you waking up in the middle of the night stressed about a to-do list! Instead, I hope it leads to longer and sounder sleeping, lower levels of stress, lower levels of anxiety, mornings with more energy, and an overall healthier life for you!
If you are in a pattern of sleepless nights that are negatively affecting your health, your family, or your career, connect with the Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free consultation Our sleep medicine specialists offer the help needed to get back on track with a quality, healthy night’s sleep. Call us today @ 907-420-0540
About the Author: Delaney Dye is a senior from New Castle, Ind., double majoring in public relations and youth leadership development. Dye is a member in PRSSA, and a second year associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.
Karen Caldwell PhD, Mandy Harrison PhD, Marianne Adams MFA, Rebecca H. Quin MA & Jeffrey Greeson PhD (2010) Developing Mindfulness in College Students Through Movement-Based Courses: Effects on Self-Regulatory Self-Efficacy, Mood, Stress, and Sleep Quality, Journal of American College Health, 58:5, 433-442, DOI: 10.1080/07448480903540481
Hülsheger, UR, Feinholdt, A. and Nübold, A. (2015), A low-dose mindfulness intervention and recovery from work: Effects on psychological detachment, sleep quality, and sleep duration. J Occup Organ Psychol, 88: 464-489. https://doi.org/10.1111/joop.12115
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