Mindfulness and sleep

Mindful ways to help you get back to sleep

If you are a person who wakes up during the night and who stays awake, tossing and turning and trying (unsuccessfully) to put the world to rights, try these mindfulness practices to help you back to sleep

Do a body scan. This means becoming aware of your body from your toes to the top of your head in stages. For instance: Toes, feet, calves, thighs, lower back, upper back, chest, stomach, arms, hands, shoulders, neck, head, face, throat. You can pace yourself by counting two or three breaths between each stage. You’ll find an brief body scan in my audio section for students at this link and also an eight minute body scan on my general audios page (recorded at a Move4Parkinsons event) at this link. You can make the body scan last for as long as you like.

Place your attention on the out-breath.
Awareness of the out-breath is conducive to relaxation. If you are awake during the night, allow your attention to follow the out-breath; notice the little pause at the end of the out-breath; notice the in-breath and when the in-breath has completed, follow the out-breath again. That word “follow” is important. Do not try to force the breath: left alone, it is perfectly capable of doing the job it has been doing since you were born. And don’t try to induce or prolong that pause at the end of the out-breath: if it’s there, just notice it.

As thoughts, worries, fears and memories come to you, just return to the breath. The key is not to get involved in the scenario your mind presents. There is that annoying colleague walking through your mind: let them walk through and out; this is not the time. Better to put your attention on your breathing, on the feel of the bedclothes, on your tummy moving in and out and so on. Keep returning your attention to these things.

If your mind forms sentences just let them run out. For instance if your mind says the sentence: “That fellow was very rude on the phone today” just let the sentence end there. Let it run into the sand. Do not add the next sentence: “I should have complained to his supervisor.” or whatever it might be. Just let the sentence run into the sand, into silence while you return to your breathing.

If you follow these methods, the worst that can happen is that you will be relaxed; the best is that you will get more sleep and a better quality of  sleep to send you into the world in good shape the next day.