Good morning, sweet friends! I’d like to introduce Sarah to the blog today (please say hi!). She’s sharing a topic I think we can all relate to and one that I hope helps anyone struggling to fall asleep at night. Happy almost Friday! <3
As a society, we’ve never slept worse. Caught up in worries and anxieties about family/work/social commitments, we’re finding it harder and harder to escape the spinning wheel of emotions when it’s time to put our heads down at night.
It’s funny how the bedroom is meant to be a place of relaxation, a sanctuary in which we can replenish mind, body and soul. When really, as soon as the lights go off, our brain kicks into overdrive and we find ourselves running through the big things – “What is my purpose?” – and, well, the slightly smaller things – “What will I make for dinner tomorrow?”
However big or small the thoughts clogging our ‘monkey minds’, they’re stopping us from sleeping. And sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of repercussions for our mental and physical health. Plus, no one wants to be around a grumpy zombie come morning.
There are lots of ways you can get a better sleep, regardless of the way you do it. But as a big fan of meditation, I thought I’d zone in on this method in particular. Taking time to meditate in the morning can set you up for the day with a positive, loving outlook; while meditating before bedtime can quiet a busy mind and prepare you for better-quality sleep.
Here are my top tips for an effective evening meditation:
1. Create your environment
It’s really hard to meditate in front of a TV that’s blaring sports through all your Zen. Or with your phone beeping on your lap at a mile a minute.
When it comes to evening meditation, the mood needs to be just right. Stay clear of devices like phones, laptops and TVs if you can about half an hour before sitting down (so your mind is already less stimulated). Find a quiet space, dim the lights and settle down onto your cushions or meditation stool.
Bonus tip: If you have candles and essential oils, use ’em! Frankincense is a classic oil to aid in meditation, while lavender has proven relaxing and sleep-inducing qualities. Diffuse them, burn them, dab them on your temples…whatever works to help you relax.
2. Play some music
This works for some; others might find it too distracting. But for me, soothing background music like kirtan really helps to focus my mind without it jumping around the events of the day. Plus, some of the songs are just so beautiful, they feel like a hug to my insides!
3. Try lying down
If sitting meditation is only causing you to feel more restless, or if it’s too uncomfortable, try a lying down meditation. This is meant to be your winding down time, after all – it shouldn’t cause you any stress!
The ‘tense and release’ method is one of my favorites. I know, I know – it seems counter-intuitive to tense our muscles when we’re supposed to be shutting them down. But in fact, Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a century-old method that can shoot you off in the direction of dreamland.
Start with your toes and work your way up the body – calves, thighs, hips etc. – to your face, tensing each area for five seconds before slowly, slowly releasing the clench as you exhale deeply.
Another useful technique is the ‘body scan’. If you’ve tried mindfulness meditation before, you’ll probably know what’s involved here – it’s a less active version of the above. So instead of tensing your muscle groups in turn, you simply turn your attention to them; noticing any sensations but not doing anything to change them, before moving on to the next part of the body.
Note: You can try the above methods by yourself, taking about 10– 15 minutes to do so, or use a guided relaxation exercise. I’d recommend this body scan by Jon Kabat-Zinn or this one by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
Both of these methods tune your mind into your body rather than into external elements (or internal worries!) They distract you from your inability to sleep while physically relaxing you and giving you an overarching feeling of peace. Good news all round!
4. Give it time
Like learning anything new, these things take time. And to be honest, you probably won’t notice a drastic change overnight (sorry). In fact, the first time you try an evening meditation, it might just serve to show you how active your mind is. You might get frustrated, and want to give up.
But trust me: this is one practice you’ll want to stick with! Because the benefits of meditation are becoming more and more apparent.
For one, it can physically relax our bodies and minds as mentioned above.
Plus – and this is even more exciting – mindfulness meditation can aid in reprogramming the brain to free us from negative patterns of thoughts and anxieties. Over time, this means that when we settle down at night, our mind won’t automatically jump to all the worse-case scenarios it can dream up. Instead, it becomes settled and calm. Combined with a more relaxed body, it’s your one-way ticket to Sleepytown.
Sweet dreams, and om shanti.
This is a sponsored post on behalf of The Sleep Advisor.
Hi, I’m Sarah. When I’m not writing about sleep for The Sleep Advisor, I’m doing yoga on the beach in sunny California, making yummy vegan dishes and, of course, getting my sleep on! I’ve found that my sleeping patterns have improved BIG TIME since I started meditating about a year ago…and I want to spread the sleepy joy!