Ever crawl into bed, feeling completely exhausted, yet sleep never seems to come your way?
It certainly happens to me, more often than I’d probably like to admit. I’ve seen 3am roll around far too many times for my liking. Racing thoughts and planning to-do lists in the quiet of night can create many sleep disturbances.
And even when sleep does come, I’ve found that those racing thoughts can invade my dreams, managing to wake me up anyway.
Then, when the demands of the day come about, the best way to describe how I feel is “lousy.” Do you struggle with feeling tired and lethargic after a poor night of sleep? And the cravings for the junk food…
There’s some good news if you suffer from insomnia like me. Published in the February 2015 JAMA Internal Medicine, a small study of middle-aged adults showed that a mindfulness awareness program which taught meditation could have a profound effect on insomnia, tossing and turning, and the other sleep disturbances that can rob someone of their productivity.
What Were the Results of the Study?
According to the study’s author, Dr. Herbert Benson, two groups were included in the study. Half of the participants completed the mindfulness awareness program. The other half completed a sleep education class that taught sleep habit improvement skills. Each group met 6 times, once per week, for two hours per session.
The results were clear: those who were taught mindfulness meditation skills had less insomnia, lower daily fatigue, and fewer feelings of depression at the end of the sixth session compared to the group that was taught sleep habit improvements.
There are many ways to invoke the relaxation response within the human body. I particularly like having a cup of hot tea (caffeine-free, of course) at the start of my bedtime routine as I settle into a few moments of mindfulness meditation. But it’s not the tea that actually eases stress, pain, or even high blood pressure.
It’s the practice of mindfulness meditation itself, even if done in an imperfect way.
How You Can Include Mindfulness Meditation Each Night
If you’ve been struggling with insomnia and feel like you’ve tried everything, then I invite you to give mindfulness a try – or a second opportunity, if necessary. There are two simple steps that you can use to help initiate the relaxation response you may need to be able to get a good night of sleep.
Step #1: Choose a focus of calm. You might feel ridiculous sitting on your bed, humming an Om repeatedly. My cat looked at me like I was crazy the one time I did that. You can focus on a peaceful word, phrase, or just focus on deep breathing if you prefer. The sounds can be repeated audibly or in your head.
Step #2: Choose to let things go. You must decide to let stressful events go. You must choose forgiveness. If your mind begins to wander, bring yourself back to your focus of calm. This will help the tension release.
Mindfulness meditation can be an essential tool for sleep. Include it with your next bedtime routine and let me know what results you were able to achieve.