You turn over your pillow one more time so you get the cooler side up. A few minutes later, you flip over to face the opposite direction. Your bed partner snores, and that makes you even more frustrated that you can’t sleep. You decide to pick up a book to read, but that still doesn’t help you sleep. You glance at the clock and it’s 3 a.m. and you have to get up in four hours to get the kids ready for school before you head out the door for work. Meanwhile, inside your head, your stress builds and it makes you worried and anxious. This doesn’t help as you try to sleep. Does this situation sound at all familiar? If it does, you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from some kind of insomnia. Luckily, mindfulness meditation benefits make it possible to sleep better and beat insomnia without drugs, medications or huge lifestyle changes.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is vitally important to human biology, according to the National Institutes of Health. During sleep, your brain develops new connections and pathways to help you remember things that you learned during the previous day. A good night’s sleep improves learning and other mental processes because your brain works when you’re sleeping. This leads to better problem-solving skills, paying better attention and creativity. When your brain functions better, you have better productivity at school and work.
Your body repairs the heart and blood vessels when you sleep. While you sleep, your body also regulates your hormones with regards to appetite and blood sugar. A good night’s sleep can help fend off diabetes, obesity, heart problems and immune deficiencies. In short, a full night’s sleep keeps you in top mental and physical shape.
Meditation and Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, you open yourself up to a host of medical or emotional difficulties. That’s why you need all the help you can get when it comes to solving insomnia, and meditation is one possibility for you to examine.
Study on How Meditation Helps Insomnia
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine from February 2015 illustrates how mindfulness meditation helps middle-aged adults achieve a better night’s sleep. The study included 49 people who were middle age or older at the time of the study. All of these people reported having trouble sleeping. Half were put into a group that completed a mindfulness-awareness program that taught them meditation techniques, focus techniques, and ways to hone in on moment-by-moment thoughts and experiences. The other half went through a sleep education program without learning about meditation. Both groups met a total of six times over the course of the study.
The group that went through meditation training had less fatigue, fewer bouts of insomnia and less depression compared to the other group. The findings didn’t surprise one Harvard professor who is an expert on meditation. Dr. Herbert Benson says that mindfulness meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response. When the body undergoes the opposite of the stress response or the relaxation response, your body starts to heal pain, stress, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure. The trick is finding a way to meditate so you can bring on the relaxation response as you try to sleep. There are a few things you can do.
Using Meditation to Combat Insomnia
Meditation involves focusing your mind on the present without worrying about the past or the future. One common method to focus on just the present moment involves slow breathing. Just breathe in and out deeply, slowly and methodically. Listen to the sound of your breath, turn your thoughts inward and clear your mind as you listen to your lungs inhale and exhale.
You can use a guided meditation where you listening to someone’s recorded voice or on a short mantra you repeat over and over. Consider using a visual image, such as a candle, everyday object or visage in your mind, to empty your mind of all other thoughts. The goal is to sharpen your focus on just one particular aspect of your present moment going on immediately in front of you.
Breathing for Better Sleep
The beauty of breathing exercises is that you can employ that kind of meditation anytime and anywhere, especially as you lay down to try to sleep. Dr. Benson recommends practicing mindfulness meditation at least 20 minutes per day, which is the recommendation made by the meditation study. The idea is that the more you meditate, the easier the relaxation response occurs and the sooner you fall asleep. The sooner you fall asleep at night, the better your overall sleeping pattern becomes over the long term.
Beating insomnia is one of the many mindfulness meditation benefits to explore. From improving focus to sleeping peacefully, ongoing meditation can improve your life.
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