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How to Prepare for Sleep with Mindfulness

Sleep, essential to your wellbeing, is one of the first things to improve when people do a course in mindfulness. People sleep better, and their sleep is deeper. Studies found similar results from people who suffered from insomnia who did an eight-week course in MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction).

Sleep is about completely letting go of the world. Falling asleep isn’t something you do – it’s about non-doing. In that sense sleep is similar to mindfulness. If you’re trying to sleep, you’re putting in a certain effort, which is the opposite of letting go.

Here are some tips for preparing to sleep using mindfulness:

  • Stick to a regular time to go to bed and to wake up. Waking up very early one day and very late the next confuses your body clock and may cause difficulties in sleeping.

  • Avoid over-stimulating yourself by watching television or being on the computer before bed.

  • Try doing some formal mindfulness practice like a sitting meditation or the body scan before going to bed.

  • Try doing some yoga or gentle stretching before going to bed. Cats naturally stretch before curling up on the sofa for a snooze. This may help you to relax and your muscles unwind.

  • Do some mindful walking indoors before bed. Take five or ten minutes to walk a few steps and feel all the sensations in your body as you do so.

  • When you lie in bed, feel the in-breath and the out-breath. Rather than trying to sleep, just be with the breathing. Count your out-breaths from one to ten. Each time you breathe out, say the number to yourself. Every time your mind wanders off, begin again at one.

  • If you’re lying in bed worrying, perhaps even about getting to sleep, accept your worries. Challenging or fighting thoughts just makes them more powerful. Note them, and gently come back to the feeling of the breath.

If you seem to be sleeping less than usual, try not to worry about it too much. In fact, worrying about how little sleep you’re getting becomes a vicious circle. Many people sleep far less than eight hours a day and most people have bad nights once in a while. Not being able to sleep doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

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