Mindfulness for Insomnia
A study by Harvard University has shown that Mindfulness Meditation improves insomnia, fatigue and depression through functional and structural changes to your brain. Not only has Mindfulness been shown to be powerful in benefitting sleep, but is increasingly employed in Western psychology due its effects in alleviating a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.
… but what is Mindfulness exactly, and how can it help you overcome your insomnia?
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness focuses on noticing your thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges. The most important thing, however, is doing so in a non-judgemental manner.
To understand why this is so important, try to think of the difference in the way you approach somebody else’s problems as opposed to your own. Have you noticed how easier it is to give helpful advice from an observer’s position, when you’re not as motivated by emotion? This is exactly what Mindfulness can do for you. It creates a sense of perspective on your own problems, helping you to notice yourself having unhelpful thoughts without getting hooked by them. In time, this will enable you to respond in the most helpful way to even the most stressful events.
Furthermore, Mindfulness helps connect you to your surrounding environment and enabling you to more fully experience every moment. This can help you lead a more present and insightful life, by
Mindfulness for Insomnia
Here at the Sleep School, we are pioneering the use of Mindfulness and acceptance-based training with regards to insomnia, due to its effectiveness in relieving insomnia symptoms by reducing night-time worry. For chronic insomniacs, night-time worry is often associated with poor sleep: focussing on the poor quality of sleep in the past, imagining how bad things will be in the future if they don’t sleep, and trying to work out how to fix their insomnia. Unfortunately, this overthinking is literally what’s keeping them awake.
Regular mindfulness practice and its ability to help you gain a sense of perspective on your thoughts will teach you how to let your thoughts pass by, like clouds in the sky; observing them without letting them affect you in any way. If you notice your thoughts in this neutral manner, you will find that you are no longer battling with them, but rather accepting them for what they are.
At the Sleep School, we believe that acceptance of insomnia is the key to recovering from it. Unfortunately, sleep is one of those things you can’t control, and any efforts to do so will lead you further and further away from it. By choosing, instead, to accept your insomnia, paradoxically you’ll be entering a calmer, more relaxed state of being, from which sleep can naturally emerge.
If you’re thinking of exploring Mindfulness as a tool to help you with your insomnia, we can help you learn how to best use this tool to improve your sleep. Please download our “Sleep School for Insomnia App”, which has more in depth information full of video and audio content to help you sleep better.
In the meantime, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Let go of thoughts and emotions
One of the biggest challenges faced by any newcomer to meditation is the idea that your mind should be blank and that it shouldn’t wander. If this is your aim, then you’ll soon become very frustrated or worse still give up!
However, mindfulness is all about cultivating an accepting attitude whereby you notice your thoughts and emotions arrive and let them pass. The sooner you can view a wandering mind or rising emotion as an opportunity to practice, rather than a failure, the sooner you’re training will flourish and the more benefits you’ll reap.
2. Establish regular daily practice.
In the beginning, remembering to actually do your practice can be one of the biggest challenges. Therefore, it can be helpful to set alarms on your phone, or simply write yourself reminder notes.
3. Practice mindfulness at set points during the daytime or evening.
The simple logic behind this is that normal sleepers don’t practice mindfulness at night and neither should you. Keeping your formal practice to the daytime / evening, helps you to learn the skill in the most effective manner, rather than when faced with the pressure to sleep. Aim to only use mindfulness during the night for short moments at a time, as a way of helpfully responding to night time wakefulness and unhelpful thoughts and feelings in that moment.