Mindfulness and sleep

Enjoy this monthly mindfulness post from Dave Johnson, PhD, CNS-BC, LMFT, Employee Assistance Specialist.

When it comes to our well-being, sleep is right up there with managing stress, eating well and exercising. It’s amazing when you think about the fact that we “leave our bodies” for 6, 7, 8 hours; we let go and we go somewhere other than here. Sleep can become disturbed when we have stressors or things are bothering us.

Notice patterns

Maybe you have coffee or tea before you try to go to sleep and it’s making it hard to fall asleep. Perhaps you aren’t turning off screens at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. You might be activated by what you’re watching or reading. Evaluate your habits and ask yourself if you are prompting yourself to get ready for bed.  

Cultivate intention

Look at your bedroom. Is it soothing, calm and inviting? Does it provide a place of respite at the end of the busy day? Consider the colors, the feel of the sheets and the lights. Our sleep rhythm is based on night and day, dark and light, so your bedroom should reflect the same.

Be intentional about creating an environment and habits that support rest by appealing to the senses. Add a diffuser with calming, soothing essential oils, like lavender. Sip on a warm herbal tea that you can hold and taste and smell. Let go of the busy day.

Pay attention

Really listen. What are you hearing? Silence can be daunting. Maybe you need a little white noise. Tune into your Interoception, or what you’re feeling within. Have you gone to bed hungry or thirsty? Do you need to place a glass of water next to the bed?

Change of scenery

Sometimes, if you’re struggling to fall asleep, it can be helpful to get up and try some different strategies. Do some light reading or listen to some soft music. Maybe you want to go into another room and do a bit of yoga or meditation.  Our body breathes us 99.9 percent of the time on autopilot, so something like the body scan meditation can be a great way to slow down and tune in to your body. Take time to observe and notice if there’s tension in your chest or jaw or shoulders.

Sometimes a warm bath can be helpful for getting the body and mind to relax. Maybe you need to come off of autopilot and breathe your body. Take some slow deep breaths and feel the weight of the sheets rise and fall on your chest as you breathe slowly and methodically.

Make sleep a priority

Bring intention and attention to the cultivation of those spaces where rest happens. Use your senses to notice what’s soothing and what helps provide rest. Notice when you need to set boundaries and develop good sleep patterns within the home so that it can be a place where rest is as important as anything that you do.

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