Having difficulty falling asleep is not uncommon for many people. Often, stress and anxiety are the causes for sleeplessness. Practicing good Sleep Hygiene can help some people sleep, but isn’t always enough. If stress is keeping you awake, it may help to supplement your normal sleep routine with some calming rituals to help you fall asleep.
Guided meditation is known to be effective in reducing stress as well as improving the overall quality of life. The purpose of this practice is to slow down and eventually stop our minds from any activity. Some refer to this as “thoughtless awareness.”
To practice guided meditation you will need a soundtrack, which can now be found on many smartphone apps. Turn on the soundtrack and leave it playing quietly at your bedside. Close your eyes and follow the commands. The objective is to stop your mind’s activity, not to focus on breathing or posture, and it should not take any mental effort.
Many people with stress in their lives spend a lot of time with negative thoughts and trying to solve problems. This can be tiring and cause anxiety, which also results in difficulty falling asleep. With mindfulness, an overactive mind can be put at ease. This practice is known to lessen anxiety and depression, improve mood, and help you feel relaxed.
Unlike meditation where you are “zoning out” and slowing down your mind, mindfulness is “zoning in” and being focused on living in the moment. It involves accepting everything the way it is right at this moment, without analyzing or judging your feelings, just being aware of their existence.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique used to relieve tension in your muscles, which then helps you relieve tension in your mind. It distracts your mind from worry by focusing on your body.
To practice this technique, begin by breathing in slowly and deeply for a few minutes. When you feel ready, take a deep breath, tense your feet along with your toes for a few seconds (3-4 seconds should be enough), and slowly exhale while releasing the tension. Next, take another deep breath while tensing your lower leg muscles, hold your breath as you did before, and exhale while releasing the tension. Continue this pattern working your way up your body, next with the muscles in your upper legs, then abdominal muscles and muscles of your lower back, upper back with chest, arms, hands, and then finishing with your shoulders and neck. Make sure to hold your breath each time while tensing your muscles, and to relax each time you exhale.
Focusing on deep breathing can make you feel calm, relax your muscles, and lower your heart rate. It can take your attention away from worry and it can be done anywhere while sitting, standing, or lying down. For just a moment while closing your eyes, try to relax your muscles and focus on your breathing. For deep breathing exercises, focus on abdominal breathing. If you’re unsure how to do this, place a hand on your stomach and the other one on your chest. Breathe in slowly so that the hand over your stomach rises.
To practice this exercise, breathe in slowly with your abdomen, hold your breath for about 5 seconds, and exhale for about another 5 seconds. You can do this for about 5 minutes although there is no set time. Many people practice this breathing until they fall asleep.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.