Mindfulness meditation is the practice of controlling thoughts about sensations you experience in the moment, such as emotions, breathing and physical feelings.1 This is a powerful tool that helps create the “relaxation response,” a phenomenon which describes the opposite of the stress response in the human body. In this state, you are able to heal yourself of difficulties caused by stress, such as depression, pain, a lowered immune system and poor sleep.2
Studies have shown the close tie between stress and sleep disorders, so meditation has been used as an effective practice for creating better sleep. Science has shown that mindfulness awareness practices in particular resulted in improvements in sleep quality.1,2
Different Types of Mindful Meditation
There isn’t just one way to reach this state of relaxation, and it is a state that can be achieved through different means for different people. All these techniques are a form of meditation that allow you to focus on the present moment:3
- Breathing focused: Sit or lay in a comfortable position and focus on the air coming and leaving your body, allowing thoughts to pass in a judgement-free space, always coming back to focusing on your breathing.
- Body focused: In a relaxing position, focus on the feelings in your body by directing your attention to a specific body part, moving from head to toe.
- Sensory focused: Become aware of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and physical sensations surrounding you. Once aware of them, practice non-judgment and let them pass.
- Emotion focused: Move intrinsically and let your emotions flow within you. With acceptance, label the emotions, realizing they are there, and allowing yourself to release them through breath and non-judgment.
Mindful Meditation for Easing into Sleep
You may notice when you lay down to sleep and shut your eyes, your mind is racing with thoughts that seem unable to shut off. This is completely normal, and this occurrence is what mindful meditation can help with especially. Although this type of meditation can be practiced anywhere, we curated five steps for mindful meditation, combining all four types of meditation, to practice while you are in bed to help you sleep:
- Lay down in a comfortable and rested position where your body is fully supported (no limbs hanging from the bed), and place your hands down by your side or on your belly. Let your body go as limp as possible.
- Focus on your breathing: your lungs filling with air, your abdominal rising and falling, and the air moving in and out of your nose.
- Thoughts will probably be racing throughout your mind at this time, and they are hard to shut off. Submerse thoughts of frustration, fear or worry with self-compassion, and a nice deep breath. Rather than trying to make them disappear, recognize them, label them as thoughts that you can do nothing about in this moment, and let them pass with the air you are breathing out.
- Shifting from focusing on your breath, focus on the sensations in your body, starting at your toes, notice how they feel just as they are. If they are harbouring any tension, relax them at let that tension dissipate. Do this from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, relaxing each and every part of your body by asking yourself how it feels and letting all tension melt into your bed.
- Once your body is fully relaxed, move your attention back into breathing in and out, letting your thoughts go and focusing on the sensation of breathing for however much time you need to drift off into sleep.4