Tossing and turning half the night trying to fall asleep can be frustrating and takes a toll on your mental health. Sleep is integral in maintaining a harmonious and happy life and it plays a role in physical health as well. Some may have trouble falling asleep due to racing thoughts in the mind, ruminating about an upcoming event, poor sleeping behaviors, and mind "chatter." We have heard for years that a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night should be attained, however new studies show that might not be enough for many people and that 8-9 hours allows the brain ample time to process the day's information and to work through sleep cycles for the best rest and health. Utilizing mindfulness techniques and the following these basic tips can help you get the most out of your sleep.
- Ensure your bedroom is a sleep haven. Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom that is your safe haven for sleep. Upgrade your pillow, mattress, or sheets for maximum comfort. Try to make the room as dark as possible and cut out any additional lights from windows and alarm clocks. Set the temperature in your room to slightly cooler for a peaceful night's sleep.
- Dim the lights and hour before bedtime and avoid looking at anything with a screen. By creating a dimmer environment in your home the body and brain will begin to wind for the day and prepare for sleep. Science shows the blue waves from electronic screens (i Phones, computers, or televisions) activate and stimulate the brain which isn't conducive to moments before going to bed. Reading print material (books and magazine) are optimal if you are inclined to read, but engage in relaxing activities outside of the bedroom to get your body acclimated to winding down.
- 15 minutes before bedtime begin a mindfulness exercise. You can look up different mindfulness exercises to utilize in order to relax your body. Many that incorporate body-awareness are helpful in relaxing major muscle groups. For example, sit in a chair in the dimly light room. Focus your attention on your jaw and alternate between clenching and relaxing 2-3 times. Notice how the muscles constrict and relax. Next move your awareness to your shoulders and clench and relax again. Continue this pattern moving down through your body until you end at your feet. This exercise will help you identify areas of your body that may be carrying extra stress and tension and will help you relax before heading to bed.
- Lay in bed and focus on your breath. Once in bed, avoid "thinking" about the day's events, tomorrow's task, and things you need to do. Instead, just focus on your breath. Visualize and feel the breath coming in and out through your nose. Pay attention to your heart beating. You can even use the 4-7-8 count to help lower heart rate (count breath in for 4 seconds, hold breath for 7 seconds, release breath out for 8 seconds).