Could beditation be the solution to your sleep problems? We investigate with four easy to follow steps
If you spend every morning vowing to get an early night but spend every evening tossing and turning over an assault of anxieties, you are not alone. Over a quarter of us are getting a poor night’s sleep on a regular basis and the number of Brits getting just five to six hours every night is on the rise, according to statistics from the Sleep Council.
The main sleep thief, you may be unsurprised to learn, is stress. Almost half of us report that stress or worry keeps us awake at night and singles have it even worse, with 57 per cent of people naming stress as the main factor behind sleep deprivation.
Artificial lights are high on the list as another culprit and ‘partner disturbance’ – snoring, duvet hogging and fidgeting—is the UK’s second common cause of a bad night’s sleep. Experts believe that we need somewhere between six and nine hours of sleep in order to feel refreshed and to function well both mentally and physically. Yet, despite becoming a nation of zombies, half of us (49 per cent) have never taken steps to help us sleep.
Beditation for better sleep
Mindfulness experts believe that ‘beditation’ could be the solution to our bedtime woes. Mel Rattue, mindfulness expert and founder of not-for-profit organisation Mindful Herts, says: "As a society we are so inundated with daily distractions that it is only when we finally try to sleep that we become aware of our thoughts and try to process them. This often leads to catastrophising or ruminating, which leads to worry and fear. And, when we are tired, it's harder to recognise these unhealthy patterns.
"Beditation redirects our mind away from thinking to sensing and being and allows us to relax and drift off. Many participants on my mindfulness courses have sleeping problems and this has adverse effects on their mental and physical health. I always get feedback after a retreat day that some participants slept really peacefully. But you don't have to go on a retreat. Even ten minutes of mindfulness meditation before you go to bed can significantly improve your level of relaxation and quality of sleep."
There is now a wealth of guided beditations to be found online. Mindfulness Herts has a number of meditations on its YouTube page, for example.
How to do beditation
The aim of beditation is to bring focus to the here and now, mindfully relaxing the mind and body through awareness of your breathing and the sensations in your body. Here are four principles to help you develop a beditation practice
Rest your mind upon the breath and notice how you are breathing without judging or trying to change anything. Start to lengthen the breath, focusing on journey of the breath in and out of the nostrils, the rib cage and the belly. Think of your breath as an anchor, which you can always bring yourself back to if thoughts or tension creep in.
Give attention to each area of the body, from the tips of the toes to the crown of the head, as you become aware of and interested in the sensations. With your exhalation, imagine sending ease to each body part in turn.
Our minds are programmed to scan the horizon for impending dangers so it's natural that it will wander off several times during your beditation practice. Each time the mind wanders off, recognise that this is normal and bring the mind back to the breath. Mindfulness is like a muscle and the more you practice, the more you will notice that your mind's resistance to being in the moment will decrease.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the practice. You are encouraged to treat yourself with patience, acceptance and kindness - empathy which many of us don't always extend to ourselves. There is no right and wrong way to beditate. Beditation is a helpful bedtime reminder to be friends with yourself and an aid to becoming comfortable with what is.