If you have trouble sleeping, you have probably tried almost everything to get some shut eye.
You know the facts and figures about how most people need a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep a night. How a good night’s sleep is the foundation for a successful day.
You likely have an eye pillow for full darkness and your earplugs. You have probably even stopped using your phone as an alarm clock and you have started to read before bed instead of checking your emails.
Yet, it’s still not working. And you are still tired.
All of us have experienced this – in fact none of us are alone in this. A recent study concluded that more than half of Americans say they need at least eight hours of sleep to feel at their best – but nearly three quarters say they never get that much.
When I was first starting a new job about 5 years ago at a large and fast-paced tech company, I had major difficulty sleeping – especially before major presentations.
Changing some simple habits during the day and evening was very helpful, I definitely tried to unwind before bed with a good book.
Yet as much as these small habits were helpful, they just did not do the trick.
I think we all know that there is something else stopping us from getting shut eye – and it can’t be solved by buying another eye pillow.
The real obstacle to getting a good night’s sleep is worry.
To calm an anxious and worrying mind takes patience and it’s helpful to have a practice to rely on when the going gets tough.
Mindfulness has shown to be effective in helping to improve sleep, including reducing symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.
I use a simple mindfulness practice during stressful times to get the sleep I need. I have been using this practice for years, and it’s good to see that mindfulness research has also found that it is useful for so many others.
I like how Dr. Ronald Siegel, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, describes the mindfulness practice for sleep in 3 simple steps.
Try this practice to face worry head on:
1) Acknowledge that it’s worry that is keeping you up at night. This is normal and we all face it.
2) Choose a calming focus. Good examples are your breath, a sound (“Om”), a positive word (such as “relax” or “peace”), or a phrase (“breathing in calm, breathing out tension”; “I am relaxed”). If you choose a sound, repeat it silently as you inhale or exhale.
3) Let go and relax. Don’t worry about how you’re doing. When you notice your mind has wandered, simply take a deep breath or say to yourself “thinking, thinking” and gently return your attention to your chosen focus.
As with anything this will take practice. Be patient. The more anxious you get about getting enough sleep, the more difficult it will be to actually get any.