Overcome Insomnia with Mindfulness
Sleep. If it comes naturally to you, you’re a lucky person. A good night’s sleep is so easy to take for granted. For many people, insomnia is something they battle with every night.
If you suffer from insomnia, begin by trying the following:
Avoid watching television or being on the computer late into the evening.
Cut out stimulants like coffee or cigarettes.
Avoid aerobic exercise in the evening.
Have a relatively cool, dark and quiet bedroom.
Have a sleep routine — try to go to bed at the same time every day.
Mindfulness helps to reduce your stress and cut down on rumination (worrying), and can have a side effect of greater relaxation. For these reasons, mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing insomnia.
Do some meditation, mindful walking, mindful yoga or other mindfulness exercise before going to bed. Some people find it more effective than others, so give it a try to see if it works for you. The meditation needs to be a relaxing rather than energizing one.
If you wake up at night and can’t get back to sleep, try doing the body scan meditation as you lie in bed, on your own or using the audio that accompanies the book.
If you find your mind racing at night, turn your attention to your breathing. Place one hand on your belly and feel your breathing until you drift off to sleep.
Here’s a mindful technique a friend swears by. Count as many different sounds as you can hear. For example, your breathing, the noise of traffic in the distance, a plane passing over, your partner shuffling around (hopefully not snoring too loudly!). By the time you get to six or seven sounds, you may be asleep. If not, just keep going.
Count your exhalations. Each time you breathe out, say to yourself ‘one’, then on the next outbreath ‘two’ and so on. Every time you get to ten, start again from one. It’s a more relaxing version of counting sheep!
If you really can’t sleep, don’t fight with it. Try sitting up and doing some mindfulness of breath meditation or some slow mindful walking, as described earlier in this chapter. Even some gentle mindful yoga may help to relax you.
A lot of these techniques work because you shift your mind away from your worries and on to something else. Even worrying about the fact that you’re not sleeping can often prevent you from falling asleep.
So, as best you can, let go of your worries and try the preceding approaches. Even if you don’t fall asleep, at least you get to do lots of mindfulness, which in some ways is even more healthy than sleep!