Have you ever lay your head on the pillow after an exhausting day, only to be bombarded by racing thoughts that keep the mind on-edge and awake? If like me, the answer to this question is a resounding ‘YES’, then sleep mediation could be for you.
The Sleep Health Foundation of Australia’s annual survey reported that 1 in every 5 Australians have difficulty falling asleep. The same organisation found that 35% of the nation wake up feeling unrefreshed. With a significant portion of the country flirting with the throes of insomnia, an unlikely remedy has emerged.
Borne out of ancient Buddhist tradition, Vippassana Meditation – or Mindfulness Meditation as it’s often called – has exploded in the Western world as the new en-vogue practice for decreasing stress, enhancing concentration, boosting immunity and improving overall wellbeing. What is often overlooked though, is the benefits this age-old tradition has for sleep.
A study published last year in the JAMA Internal Medicine scientific journal found that mindfulness meditation practice was more effective in treating sleep difficulties than standard sleep hygiene education courses.
In the study, researchers examined a group of 49 men and women who reported difficulty in falling asleep. Half of the group enrolled in a sleep education program while the other half spent weeks learning the basics of mindfulness meditation.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the group learning mindful awareness practices scored significantly better on sleep quality tests than the group that had completed the sleep hygiene course.
At its most basic level, mindfulness meditation involves concentrating on the breath while remaining aware of any thoughts or sensations that come and go. Through repeated practice, mindfulness meditators cultivate an ability to soften the mind by calmly focusing solely on the rising and falling of the breath, while accepting the transitory nature of the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that arise and fade.
When it comes to sleep, scientists speculate that mindfulness meditation improves central nervous system processes that are linked to stress, thereby enabling better sleep quality. Most people who suffer from sleeping difficulty also report feeling anxious about the quality of their sleep. Through mindfulness meditation, people learn how to simply observe and accept thoughts without elaborating on them.
So, next time you’re in bed with a head full of racing thoughts, try the below mindfulness meditation exercise.
- Begin by breathing deeply in through the nose, out through the mouth
- Cover each breath with complete focus; try to track the physical sensations that arise during each inhalation and exhalation
- Slowly begin to count each breath to 10, then start over from 1
- Fall asleep 😉