What’s the secret to falling asleep quickly? A healthy diet, good exercise and a nourished mind. What’s the secret to a nourished mind? Mindfulness sleep techniques!
We all know getting our good seven to eight hours of sleep is crucial for a functioning mind and body. So on our good days, we crawl into bed early, close our eyes and await the darkness. We’re also a little bit proud of how disciplined we are for finally getting enough hours of sleep. But then after a few minutes, we start to toss and turn. It takes us at least an hour or so to finally get to sleep and by then, we’re down to only five or six hours of shut eye. Not to mention how irate we are at ourselves for not being able to get to sleep fast enough.
Previously, I was actually quite good at falling asleep quickly. But there were some incidents that occurred at night in my neighbourhood causing me to have trouble sleeping. Gradually, I’ve built back my night zen and because I know how common sleep problems are, I really want to share with everyone the mindfulness strategies that have helped me!
Here are my seven mindfulness sleep techniques to help you fall asleep quickly.
Mindfulness Sleep Techniques
Meditating or participating in a mindfulness session can calm down the brain and relax the body, allowing ourselves to fall asleep. We often can’t go to sleep because our thoughts are running around like crazy in our minds. We think of the day’s events, our mistakes, our cringe-worthy moments, how we could’ve improved, the future, our worries and everything else other than falling asleep. It’s important to remember that these thoughts can bring on a set of emotions and heighten our anxiety or worries and prevents us from sleeping. Mindfulness helps us be in the present moment and to learn how to just fall asleep, just only that. I’ve noticed on nights where I don’t meditate (because I feel too tired or I just get caught up in my activities), I fall asleep slower than on the nights where I do.
2. The Body Scan
The last conscious thing I do before trying to fall asleep is to do a body scan. It can be a formalised body scan through a meditation practice or a quick scan to relax my muscles. The body scan helps us disentangle tension we might still be holding on from the day in our muscles and body parts. By physically relaxing our body, we’re telling ourselves that it’s time for resting and rejuvenation. Usually we start at the head and try to relax everything there before we move down the body. Another component of the body scan involves being more responsive and aware of any sensations that we might be feeling on our skin, in our tissues and bones. For those who suffer from physical pain, combining the body scan and breathing (as below) can help.
3. Breathing Techniques
There are many breathing techniques out there designed to help us fall asleep. Depending on our thoughts and feelings, we can choose them wisely. Phi and I love the 4 7 8 technique where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Because we’re so focussed on getting the breath to the number seconds, we start to ruminate less and we feel in control of our body signifying that we are ready to fall asleep. If you’re highly anxious and in a stressed mode, box breathing may help you to calm down. Keep in mind that it also doesn’t have to be a particular technique. Simply doing a few deep breaths then returning to your normal breathing pattern is sufficient – just make sure to focus on the breath (where you feel it most, the air against the tip of your nose, your chest rising and falling, your abdomen expanding and deflating) as much as you can.
4. Soothing Music
Thanks to the Internet, there are tons of relaxing music for sleep out there. Soothing music can help us fall asleep faster because our minds start to focus on the sounds and less on other things. It’s great to drown out any environmental noise (great if you have siblings or noisy roommates) or any ruminating thoughts. Try to incorporate some mindfulness with the music by truly listening to every note of the tune, focusing on the breathing and being present in the moment. I personally like to fall asleep to the sound of heavy rain; it creates a comfortable, cozy wintery vibe. Try not to play music that is too upbeat, fast or with lyrics because they can get us excited, increase our heart rate and prevent us from sleeping even further!
5. Heavy Blanket
I thought I was weird for always having a blanket on me when I slept, even during a hot Australian summer. But when asked if others do the same, many agreed! We all love how the weight of the blanket creates this atmosphere of security and coziness. For me, there’s something unnerving about sleeping without a blanket on… although I’m pretty sure I kick the blanket off in my sleep when it’s super hot. During times when it’s not too hot, try covering yourself in a heavier duvet or one of those weighted blankets. Really feel and relish in the light pressure of the blanket and how it makes you feel warm and secure.
6. Replay a Scenario
This strategy was extensively used when I was in my penultimate year of medical school studying for my final barrier exams. Alongside written exams, we also had practical exams that simulated to real-life doctor patient scenarios. Learning theory doesn’t cut it for these type of exams, we had to gain experience through hands-on placements and re-enactments with fellow colleagues. When I couldn’t go to sleep and mindfulness couldn’t calm me enough to go to sleep, I would exhaust my hyperactive brain by imagining and replaying my practice scenarios over and over again until I fell asleep. It actually helped me to perfect my technique, refine my dialogue and increase my performance in real life. I do really recommend this technique if you have scenarios that you want to refine. Whether it is work-related, study or even a simple interaction with someone you anticipate in the future, it’s actually quite nice to go through in your mind what you would want to do exactly. This strategy helps the neurons in our brains to create stronger connections so that it’s easier for us in real life.
7. Invent a Story
If you’re a fan of this blog, then you’ll know I love to read books especially when I was young. This led me to create and envision stories in my mind when I tried to fall asleep. It could stem entirely from my imagination or I’d take inspiration from a book or a movie and weave it into my own desired storyline. My young self would often create stories based off The Mortal Instruments which was my favourite series at the time. I like to think of it as, reading a bed time story to ourself in our own mind. Sooner or later, at some point which we’d find hard to recollect, we’ll fall asleep. This also gave me an outlet to explore my imagination and creativity, even more so as an adult because we unfortunately have less time for these things in our daytime hours as we get older.