Breathe in, breathe out
iStock/visualspaceDeep breathing is the most basic of mindfulness meditations for sleep and the first trick I had to master before I started getting better sleep. According to Greater Good in Action, a science-based organization by the University of California, Berkeley, starting with really exaggerated breathing is a good way to learn this trick. Begin by inhaling through your nostrils for three seconds, holding the breath for two seconds and then end by exhaling through your mouth for four seconds. While you are breathing, focus on those breaths. I found my brain wandering a lot, which is OK, the key is bringing your focus back to your breathing as soon as you notice you are preoccupied by other things. Check out some other easy ways to be more mindful with these 10 ways you can meditate every day without trying.
Mindfulness all day long
iStock/PeopleImages-When I first started using mindfulness to get sleep, I believed I needed to be meditating at bedtime if I wanted to cure my insomnia. I was completely wrong! I learned that my worries about sleep were happening all day long. I started using mindfulness during the day to notice those worries and learn to accept that I may not get as much sleep as I hope for each night. According to Mindful, worrying about sleep works against the process of falling asleep. All of those concerns about your insomnia just might be making it harder to let go at the end of the day, to relax and let you body rest. Mindfulness during the day also helps you train your body to relax, according to Harvard Medical School, their experts recommend spending 20 minutes meditating each day.
Meditate on an intention or focus phrase
iStock/JANIFESTOnce I mastered focusing on my breathing, I started using a focus phrase to further encourage relaxation. For me, "Breathe in calm, breathe out tension," as suggested by Harvard Medical School was the perfect fit. Once I had settled into my breathing, I started repeating that phrase in my mind as an intention for my day and how I wanted to respond to stress or worries. Pick a phrase, a single word, or even a sound that works for you. Again, a wandering mind is totally normal. Once you notice you are thinking about other things, bring your focus back to your word or phrase. (Try these mindfulness exercises as soon as you wake up.)
Don't stop the worries or fears
iStock/Geber86For the longest time, I really believed that the key to getting more sleep was learning to stop my worries and fears about the stress in my life. As it turns out, mindfulness isn't about silencing your brain. Instead, experts including those at No Sleepless Nights suggest simply acknowledging those thoughts and moving on. So, when I found myself worried about my work the next day, I would simply silently note that I was concerned about it and return to focusing on my breathing. Sometimes, if you are really struggling with the idea of observing your thoughts, instead of trying to stop them or getting lost in them, a more concrete exercise can help. One helpful exercise, as described by No Sleepless Nights, is thinking about your thoughts as if they are clouds. They suggest you imagine the pleasant thoughts you have are white but the worries or fears are black clouds. Imagine those clouds drifting by you as practice meditation. Are you still struggling with your stress? Here are 37 stress management tips from the experts.
Do a body scan
iStock/jacoblundLearning to do a body scan, both during my daily meditation practice and at night if I was struggling to sleep, was by far the most helpful treatment for insomnia I learned. The idea is to get comfortable, sitting in a chair with your feet planted on the floor. Begin with deep breathing in and out. Then, starting with your toes or the top of your head, notice how your body feels, scanning your attention all the way through your body, very slowly. Sometimes, having a little guidance is helpful when you are first getting started. MIT Medical has many helpful guided meditation audio recordings available online, including a 20 minute body scan. Using guided meditation was especially helpful to me when I first got started, helping me to practice body scanning until it felt comfortable enough to use at anytime when I needed to calm down.
Be mindful of your environment
iStock/ArthurHiddenPracticing mindfulness regularly gave me a self awareness I had never experienced before. I was able to observe how I felt about sleep during the day and how I felt in bed at night. I learned to be mindful of my environment, which is an essential part of good sleep hygiene, according No Sleepless Nights. For me, this meant realizing the clutter in my room was bothering me and clearing it out so I could get better sleep. Take some time to pay attention to how you feel in the room where you sleep and, if possible, make changes to your environment. Here's how to make your bedroom a stress-free oasis.
Cut back on tech in bed
iStock/Milan_JovicThe amount of time you spend on your phone may not seem like a sleep issue or a mindfulness issue, but I learned it played a role in how I was sleeping at night. I learned to be mindful of how my tech use was making me feel each day. Was my time online causing me to feel more worried at night? How did I feel after spending most of my day in front of screens? Cutting back on tech isn't just about how you feel, it's about your health. Blue screens from electronics has a negative impact on how you sleep because it messes with your bodies internal clock, according to Harvard Medical School. Are you looking for something to do at night besides playing on your phone? Check out these 18 books your can read in a day.