By Lisa (Guest Writer) –
According to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC), one-third of Americans are not receiving the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep every night and over seventy different sleep disorders have been diagnosed by doctors. A lack of sleep can lead to serious health concerns like high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.
Because prescription medications for sleep may become addictive or cause further health concerns, a natural practice like mindfulness may prove to be mentally and physically beneficial. It can help us learn how to relax and unwind at night and help overcome stressful thoughts so that we can fall asleep and stay in a deep slumber.
Practicing mindfulness encourages you to focus on the present with an awareness of the thoughts passing through your mind, whether you perceive them to be good or bad. With this practice, a shift occurs from attempting to change what is happening around us to one of looking within and using our inner knowing to overcome uneasiness. It makes sense, then, that practicing mindfulness could be a great way to find peace and get better sleep.
Here are 5 ways mindfulness benefits your sleep:
Mindfulness Battles Stress and Anxiety That Keeps Us Up at Night
Stress is hard to escape, which is not good because it makes it difficult for us to fall asleep. Cortisol, the “stress” hormone, should naturally decrease at night so we can relax as we prepare for bed. However, when we are under a lot of stress, cortisol levels stay elevated making it difficult for us to fall and stay asleep. Incorporating mindfulness into your bedtime routine allows your body and mind to relax, training it to resist stressful thoughts and eliciting a relaxation response.
Mindfulness Increases Brain Power
Both our physical health and mental wellbeing are linked to how much sleep we are getting on a nightly basis. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains are like cars with no fuel. We forget names, we drop things uncharacteristically and we’re easily irritable. Practicing mindfulness has been positively linked to the strengthening of specific portions of our brain that are linked to REM sleep, the stage where our dreams occur.
Increased Levels of Melatonin
Melatonin is the sleep hormone our bodies naturally produce as the day turns to night. Researchers have found that women who practice mindful meditation have higher levels of the hormone before bed compared to those who practice occasionally or not at all.
Mindfulness is a Natural Remedy to Sleep
Pouring a nightcap after a long day to begin relaxing or taking one of the sleeping pills you’ve gotten from your doctor to help you sleep is tempting. The thing is, these methods aren’t sustainable and could have negative effects on your health and body later on. Alcohol is a stimulant – something you don’t want before bed – and the risk of addiction is too high for some prescription medicines. A mindfulness practice, in contrast, is natural and safe remedy to troubled sleep. All you need is an environment conducive for sleep— a comfy bed, quiet, and dim lighting. Ensure your room is free of any clutter and noise and light pollution to increase the chance of complete relaxation.
There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your sleep routine and there are different types of mindfulness practices you can try including relaxation breathing, mindful breathing meditation or a body scan meditation. Experiment and see which one you feel most comfortable with and you’ll soon be on the road to high-quality sleep.