Getting some “shut eye” is the easy part. It’s falling (and staying) asleep that is challenging for many. For those who struggle with falling asleep, meditation can be a gentle and effective solution.
People who regularly experience sleep disturbances may become groggy, temperamental and forgetful during their waking hours. The importance of sleep for one’s overall wellbeing is obvious, but sometimes the solutions for nightly restlessness are not.
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That’s where meditation comes in. If your mind needs some help quieting down at night, follow this routine to ease your way into a healthier, happier sleep routine.
1. Maintain a calm environment.
Keep your bedroom or sleeping area in a relaxed state, free from excess clutter or distractions. Turn off the lights and lie down in bed.
2. Take deep breaths.
With your eyes closed, begin to relax your body and mind by taking deep breaths from your diaphragm. Hold these breaths for a little longer than you normally would.
This will help slow down your heart rate and quiet your mind. Take at least 10 deep breaths.
3. Alternate your nostrils while breathing.
Begin to take your deep breathing a little further. Your eyes should remain closed as you gently press one finger against the right side of your nose, closing the right nostril. Take a deep breath in.
You will notice your breath only through your left nostril. Hold your breath while switching your finger to your left nostril, and gently press it closed. Now, release your breath through your right nostril. With your finger still on your left nostril, inhale through your right, move your finger again and exhale through your left.
This may sound complicated, but as you get the hang of it this step will become natural. Neither the motion nor your breathing should feel forced. Continue this for 10 revolutions until you start to become sleepy.
4. Relax your muscles.
A deep state of relaxation can be gained by tensing your whole body. Weird, right?
Gently tense each of the important parts of your body that receive daily stress, hold for five-to-eight seconds, then release. Start with your feet and work your way up, making sure to address your calves, abdomen, chest, hands, arms, jaw and forehead.
Important note: Although you are aggressively engaging your muscles, you don’t want to strain yourself, so if you feel even the slightest pain, stop immediately and go back to your breathing.
Now that your mind and body are in a place of peace, you can begin to journey into dreamland. Focus on a pleasant scene or memory that calms you down. Maybe it’s an airy childhood trip to the beach or a fantastical setting of your own creation.
Whatever you choose, pick something that makes you happy without getting overly excited. Let your mind play with the landscape you envision, and let other thoughts float gently away as you relax into a sleeping state.
Along with your meditation practice, the following elements may help you ease your way into a deep sleep.
Unless you aren’t comfortable sleeping in the shadows, make sure to turn off all of your lights and close your curtains. For sensitive sleepers, even the smallest distractions can keep you awake.
Sometimes, a quiet room doesn’t quite do it. Try some relaxing music or brainwave entrainment tracks that promote deep sleep. Many of these can be heard free online or through music websites.
White noise machines are also helpful, and many of them come with other soothing sounds such as ocean waves or light rain.
If you enjoy the smell of incense or candles, lighting some just before bed can soothe your senses.
Chamomile, lavender or vanilla scents provide a pleasing odor without being overbearing. Of course, always be sure to extinguish any candle flames or lit incense before you actually lie down.
4. Guided meditation.
There are countless guided meditations available online or for download, and the good news is that many of them are free. Sample a few to find one that speaks to you.
Plug it in, turn it on and turn off your mind.
Take It Easy
The key to bettering your sleep routine is to let it happen naturally. It may very well take several nights to transition you into this guided state of calm.
With your new meditation tools, you can start to approach bedtime with confidence, enjoying the comforting final minutes before you slip into a nourishing sleep.