How Being Mindful Helps You Get Better Sleep
July 1, 2017
We all know that sleep is important for our mental and physical health. We feel better when we get a good night’s sleep and we have a better mood. Yet so many of us are not sleeping well and every year, Americans spend billions on sleep aids trying to get some sleep. If you take a look at tips for a good night’s sleep, you will see recommendations for creating a good sleeping environment, and a ritual that includes turning off electronics an hour before bed; keeping the room cool and dark; having a good mattress and pillow; and keeping electronics out of the bedroom. But this is not true for babies and toddlers who can sleep anywhere; and noise and light do not disturb them. So why do we need a sleep ritual to induce good sleep as we get older?
The real reason is because we are so busy thinking and doing things late into the night that it interrupts our ability to sleep; and our tendency to worry wakes us up in the middle of the night. As a kid growing up in the 60’s, my friends and I never had a problem sleeping. Issues with sleeping came with adulthood worries and job stress. But today, I coach many kids and teens who have sleep issues, insomnia, worry and anxiety just like adults. They are thinking too much and don’t know how to quiet and calm their mind down. They have allowed their mind to stress and worry without supervision and intervention. They have developed “bad thinking habits” that are making them lose sleep and suffer all the consequences of not getting the proper amount and quality of sleep for their well-being.
We have heard the expression that people have “lost their mind”, but I see that in our current society, we are thinking and doing so much, that we have “lost our bodies.” Our thinking distracts us from the signals from our bodies that would tell us when to rest, play, stretch, eat, and sleep. Mindfulness cannot change your busy schedule, but it can change how you behave during the day, and improve how you respond to the pressures and stress of your thinking.
If you adopt a mindfulness practice of pausing several times throughout the day and assessing what you need and choosing how to respond, you will find that you will listen to your body more. Mindfulness will give you breathing tools and mind focusing techniques that will calm your mind and relax your body so you can sleep better, and go back to sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night. The important thing is to be compassionate and kind to yourself. Mindfulness is nonjudgmental. It is a way of observing, assessing, choosing and focusing the mind to get the results you want.
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