If you’re among the 40 million American adults that suffer from anxiety, or if your mind seems to race with worry when it’s time for bed, you know how difficult getting to sleep and staying asleep can be. Frustratingly, sleep deprivation can worsen those anxious feelings, creating a seemingly endless cycle of racing thoughts and insomnia. Luckily, mindfulness practices have been proven to help break this cycle, improving sleep and reducing anxiety symptoms.
Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” More simply put, mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment. When you’re aware of each thought, sensation, and feeling, you’re better able to put things in perspective, and recognize when you’re worrying about something you cannot change, so you can let it go. We’ve compiled a list of mindfulness techniques to add to your daytime or nighttime routine which will help you sleep more and worry less.
Meditate on it
Perhaps the best known mindfulness technique is meditation. Check out our in depth post about it here. If you’re new to meditating, a great place to start is with guided meditation. Trying an app like Headspace or even videos on YouTube can be very helpful when starting out. Even a 10 minute practice as you’re winding down before bed can make a big difference in shifting your mindset.
Exercising at some point during the day can help signal to your brain that you’re tired when it’s time for bed. Why not try yoga to sweat it out while staying present? One study reported that over 55% of those who practiced yoga reported improved sleep. Focusing on the breath is one one of the key tenets of yoga, and is also a commonly used technique for mindfulness. Combining the two is a win-win, and can easily be done at home with minimal equipment. There are lots of free yoga videos out there- look for one specifically for bedtime, with poses that will help you wind down from a long day and get ready for a peaceful night.
Create a Calm Space
You can set up your bedroom for sleep success by making sure it’s stocked with calming, mindful touches and free of clutter or distractions. Aromatherapy is often associated with mindfulness practices, as a soothing scent can rein in racing thoughts and help you focus on only that. An essential oil pillow is a great addition to your bedroom- along with a weighted blanket, universally known to help ease anxiety. Also consider adding a noise machine, which can help to block out any extraneous noises and also help you focus on a soothing sound.
Sometimes the best way to clear your mind is to engage in an activity where your hands are busy doing a repetitive or mindless task as an outlet for some of that nervous energy. Try adding doodling or coloring to your evening routine, or invest in a fidget spinner. Something you may not have heard of is therapy dough. It’s a great option to keep your hands busy, squeeze out tension, and it also features the added benefit of essential oils.
Leave the Screens Behind
Not only can the blue light from our screens keep us stimulated when it’s time for bed, but the things we are reading or watching on our phones and tablets can add to the anxiety we may be feeling. Scrolling through social media or watching the news can trigger all of the worries that are lurking in the back of our minds. Instead, keep a journal in your nightstand to record one good thing that happened that day, or three things you’re grateful for. Focusing on a positive thought before you go to sleep will help you stay in the present, reinforcing your mindfulness practice and leading to a peaceful (less anxious) night.