7 Mindfulness Techniques That Help You Sleep Better
|10th November 2021
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. The reason this is such a powerful technique for falling asleep is that being mindful can reduce our stress and our racing mind caused by the challenges of the day.
This is especially important if we want a good night’s sleep. Along with sleep hygiene practices, having a mindfulness practice can set us up for a better night’s sleep. We did some research and found the following techniques to specifically help with sleep.
#1 Learn to Belly Breathe Through Your Nose
The best way to breathe in is through your nose and deep into your belly. This method of breathing allows your diaphragm to assist in filling your lungs with air. The practice of belly-breathing is as simple as paying attention to how you’re breathing right now by doing the following:
- Place your left hand on your chest
- Place your right hand on your belly
- Breathe in and notice which hand moves
- Be mindful of your next breath and breathe in by expanding your stomach like a balloon
- Do this for several minutes a day to practice.
Belly breathing allows for your lungs to fill up fully as opposed to just your upper lungs when you only expand your chest.
Breathing through your nose also warms and filters the air so that any contaminants don’t get into your lungs.
#2 Practice Gratitude
A gratitude practice is as simple as saying out loud, what you are thankful for each and every night before bed. At first, this might seem silly, but the practice of gratitude allows you to feel a sense of peace as you continue the practice. Let me explain.
If you’re always worried about every little thing, it will affect your sleep. Worry and stress can keep you awake because it makes your mind race. A simple gratitude practice will break the worry cycle and make you feel better.
Start with 1 to 3 things you are grateful for, then build up to 5 or 10. You might struggle at first but the more, the better. It may be helpful for you to write them down in a gratitude journal. After a couple of days of doing this, don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling happier and more grateful for the little things in life!
For example, I am grateful for this warm comfy bed. I am grateful for the food in my fridge.
#3 Mindful Eating
Diet can have a huge impact on our sleep patterns and our overall health. Mindful eating is the process of being selective on what and when you eat. The practice is all about slowing down and enjoying healthy food. We often move from one task to another without pausing to reflect, breathe, and enjoy the experience we’re about to partake in. This is especially true for busy people and eating.
For your next meal, try to sit in a quiet place and take your time to eat. Focus on breathing after each bite and slowly and completely chewing your food. Try to focus on only eating and not multitask in other activities. Enjoy each bite. If you don’t like something, stop eating it.
Once you’re full, stop eating and sit for a couple of minutes and belly breathe.
#4 Mindful Driving
Driving can be a stressful endeavor — especially in traffic. This stress and strain on your body can show up before you go to sleep. The root of mindful driving is centered on remembering that all the other drivers are in the same situation as you. Take deep belly breaths if you’re stuck in traffic. Realize that there is nothing you can do about traffic. Give yourself a little extra time to drive if traffic is an issue.
If others around you are annoyed or angry, remember some of your gratitude’s from the night before. Put on your favorite calming music. Realize that the drive will be a lot more pleasant if you’re calm and not stressed out. After practicing mindful driving for a while, you may find yourself feeling grateful for the red lights you get stuck at, because it gives you another chance to check in with yourself, your mind, and your body and become more self-aware of how you’re feeling at that moment.
#5 Adjust Lighting an Hour or So Before Bed
Light tells our bodies that it’s time to go to sleep. Artificial light at night can trick us into thinking it’s not the time for bed. To ease our bodies into a peaceful night’s sleep, we need to mimic the natural light that occurs as day turns to night.
This requires us to dim lights, turn off our devices, and close the drapes so that our bodies can get ready for bed.
This light-adjusting is also a great ritual to wind down from the day and get your mind ready for bed. If an hour seems too long, start off with 15 minutes and then work your way up. Any little bit of adjustment can and will help you sleep better.
#6 Write Down a To-Do List for Tomorrow
In today’s hectic world, our to-do lists are getting longer and longer. If your mind races before bed from all the tasks that must get done tomorrow, write them down in a notebook.
The process of writing down your thoughts before bed actually takes them from your mind and puts them on the page. This process tells your brain that those thoughts are safe and won’t be forgotten.
This may seem like a small task, but it can have a profound effect on your racing mind because part of the reason your mind races or ruminates on a task or issue is so that you don’t forget about it. By writing it down, you won’t!
#7 Body Scan Meditation
Once you’re in bed, one of the best ways to relax into sleep is to scan your body via body scan meditation. The process is simple and is also enhanced if you also belly-breathe.
Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position and take a few deep, mindful breaths. Close your eyes if that feels comfortable for you. Take a moment to feel and become aware of every part of your body. Start with your toes, and gradually move up your body and feel each part of you relax as you go from your feet, then to your thighs, to your stomach, to your chest, to your arms, and then to your head. Stress can often build up in very specific areas, like your jaw, your forehead, or your shoulders. Spend some extra time focusing on these areas and try to release any tension you may feel here.
As you do this, continue to belly-breathe in and out through your nose. Over time, this ritual will also calm your mind because you’re being mindful of your intent to go to sleep.
Here’s to a Better Night’s Sleep
These mindful practices are just a sample of ones that can help you sleep better. Any mindful practice that helps you relax and reduce stress during the day will help you get better sleep.