Sleep well with the right attitude
One of the most common causes of insomnia is worrying about not sleeping and trying too hard to get to sleep. The anxiety and effort associated with trying to sleep can create a state of “hyperarousal” which makes it harder to relax and fall asleep naturally. It is also normal to feel really frustrated with sleep, especially if you think you’ve tried everything to sleep better and had no success. Unfortunately this frustration adds to the hyperarousal, increasing the likelihood of further insomnia.
If this sounds familiar, it might be time to change your approach to sleep. Here are seven principles of mindfulness, that will not only help you reduce stress and anxiety, they will also help you develop the best mindset for sleep:
Lying awake at night when everyone else is sleeping is not easy, and neither is feeling tired and sleepy during the day, so it is normal to judge insomnia very negatively. Thoughts such as “I can’t stand this. This is unbearable,” may be justified, however, they also tend to increase feelings of sadness, frustration and anxiety, which perpetuates a wakeful state. Having compassion for yourself when awake at night and finding a way to let go of negative judgments will help you to stay in a relaxed, calm and restful state.
Patience is releasing the desire for something to happen faster than it naturally occurs and allowing things to unfold in their own time. It takes time to make the changes that will help you overcome insomnia, and paradoxically, the more patient you are with the process, the sooner sleep will come.
A beginner's mind is a willingness to observe the world afresh without preconceived ideas about what should occur. It is bringing an open mind to any experience and treating it as a first encounter. After a period of insomnia it is common to expect that every night’s sleep will be broken and restless. A beginner’s mind allows us to let go of making predictions about future. We learn to keep open mind about the night’s sleep and just see how things unfold.
Trust is the belief that things tend to work out in the end, even if they don’t turn out as you might expect. It encompasses a faith in your ability to cope with any challenge that you may face in your life, no matter how long it takes. Trusting that your body knows how to sleep when provided with the right conditions is an important step to overcoming insomnia. This trust enables a kind of surrendering to the process and this releases tension and stress in the body.
Non-striving is letting go of the attachment to the end goal, and the need to have to get something or somewhere. It is seeing and accepting things just as they are, and ultimately allowing ourselves to be just as we are, without needing to change or “fix” anything. As you know, no one can control the process of falling asleep. It happens naturally, without our awareness. When we try to force ourselves to sleep is actually counterproductive, we become more alert. Non-striving is letting go of “trying to sleep”.
Acceptance is seeing reality for what it is, without rejecting or denying any aspect of it. In contrast to resigning to or putting up with something, acceptance is an active process of facing something exactly as it is. Recognizing and accepting wakefulness at night time allows you to choose how to respond effectively. Acceptance can help you to stop unhelpful behaviours like watching the clock, tossing and turning, and instead help you apply good sleep management practices, like getting out of bed and resting in the lounge room until you feel sleepy again and can return back to bed
Letting go is releasing our attachment to something we are clinging to. Letting go works for sleep in many ways. Letting go of expecting an ideal sleep immediately lowers pressure to sleep, which releases tension and reduces stress. Letting go of events of the day, letting go of thinking about the future, and letting go of trying sleep, helps us to remain calm and relaxed before bed.
From A Mindful Way to Healthy Sleep Workbook by Dr. Giselle Withers. A Mindful Way Training. Copyright © 2017 by A Mindful Way Training. www.amindfulway.com.au
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You can find more information about insomnia here. And you can learn more about the influence of thinking on sleep in the related articles When the mind won’t stop thinking, just sit back and watch and Are you stuck with insomnia, chronic fatigue or anxiety?