Techniques for Better Sleep
One of the most common questions I’m asked in relation to meditation is “Can it help me sleep better?”
In a nutshell: yes. Often the cause of sleep issues is that everything is moving too fast – your brain is whirring at a million miles an hour, your heart rate is elevated and your breathing is short and shallow. Calming your mind will automatically calm the rest of your body - studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation helps evoke the body’s relaxation response.
We've put together a short guided meditation to help you fall asleep:
A guided meditation to help slow the pace of your thoughts and drop you down into a deep sleep. Listen to it once you're tucked up in bed and ready to drop off.
In addition to meditation, here’s a selection of other sleep remedies I recommend. I used to travel frequently, and new time zones and unfamiliar sleeping environments can make it difficult to get a good night’s rest.
I’ve tried many options over the years, and this is my little arsenal of the ones that have been most successful. Try each on their own, or bundle them together to find combinations that work for you.
Manage your electronics
- Use a filter to switch the hue of your screen – studies have shown that, when viewed after sunset, the standard blue light emitted by phone and computer screens interferes with our circadian rhythms. A simple fix is to download Flux for your computer and to utilize the inbuilt Night Shift for your phone, both of which switch your screen to a red-based shade.
- You've heard it before, but it really does make a difference: Try not to bring electronics into bed with you. If you can't break the habit, aim to stop looking at your phone or laptop 30 - 60 minutes before you wish to be asleep.
- Employ the Do Not Disturb function on your phone, so that you don’t get alerted to any calls or messages while you’re trying to sleep (you can select the option for repeated calls to reach you, in case of emergencies).
Prepare your space
- Switch to low lighting in your bedroom an hour or two before bed.
- Declutter your room. The state of your living environment affects (and reflects) your state of mind more than you might think. If you want a more peaceful state of mind as you head to bed, create a peaceful space. You can absolutely shortcut and shove any mess in the closet - "out of sight, out of mind" actually works in this instance (though, tidiness-wise, it's not a long-term solution).
- Do something creative without a set outcome. Draw with your eyes closed, paint aimlessly, play an instrument... The goal is to clear your mind. Writing is a great way to release any recurring thoughts: in a similar style to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, take a pen and paper (the exercise is deliberately done longhand) and simply write out whatever comes into your head. It can be a rant about work, a wishlist or completely non-sensical.
- Set up “sleep triggers”, ie things that you only do before bedtime. Your mind will start to associate them with sleep, and begin to prepare your body for it. They could be anything from a cup of non-caffeinated tea such as roobois or chamomile to listening to a particular playlist.
- Try to cease the consumption of stimulants (coffee, caffeinated tea or beverages, chocolate, etc) approximately five hours before your desired bedtime.
- Move your body, slowly. If you're into yoga, get on your mat and do a couple of sun salutations - perhaps start with one breath per pose, but by the end hold each one for several breaths. Otherwise, stretch - it's about getting out of your head and into your body.
- Dab lavender oil on your temples and the back of your neck. Lavender is great for relieving stress and has sedative properties. If you’re using a highly concentrated oil (Doterra or the like), blend a couple of drops with a carrier oil such as jojoba, coconut or grapeseed.
- Take a hot bath (ideally with Epsom salts). Try to keep the lights in the bathroom dim, and head straight to bed afterwards.
- Gently stroke or put pressure on the area directly between your eyebrows (a weighted eye mask can assist with this). It’s an acupressure point that helps to calm the mind and release tension.
Distract your mind
- Listen to relaxing classical music, at a low volume. If you search for ‘sleep’ on Spotify you’ll find a number of curated playlists.
- Forget sheep, and instead count backwards from 100. Start at 100 and count down as you exhale, and up as you inhale. So it would go something like: exhale 100, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95, inhale 96, 97, 98, exhale 97, 96, 95, 94, 95, 94, inhale 95, 96, exhale… Aim to count down more numbers than you do up. Go slowly. It should take you a long time to reach zero (if you don’t fall asleep prior), and that’s the point.
- Listen to book tapes in another language (not one that you speak fluently). French and Italian are favourites as they’re both quite soothing to the ear. Here’s The Little Prince in both:
- Jenni Dawes