In today’s fast-paced and tech-centric culture, it can be tough to step away from to-do lists, emails, and phone notifications in order to relax. The stresses of modern life can make it hard to slow down and be present, which can negatively impact our sleep. In fact, according to the CDC, one-third of adults in the U.S. regularly get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep.
The concept of mindfulness is by no means new. However, research conducted in recent years shows that practicing mindfulness before bed can help you fall asleep and get better rest.
What is Mindfulness?
When screen-based distractions are always within reach, either at work or home, the idea of slowing down to be present to each moment can feel like a novelty. According to Prevention Magazine, mindfulness is “a way of being in the present moment with a relatively non-judgmental or non-reactive mindset.”
There are several ways to practice mindfulness, and meditation is a common one. The website mindful.org describes mindfulness meditation as “a mind-calming practice that focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment.” You can also practice mindfulness by slowing down and paying close attention to tasks like washing the dishes, going for a long walk or run, doodling, or sweeping the floor.
The Connection Between Mindfulness and Sleep
Scientists are still studying how mindfulness helps us sleep. One theory is that physical relaxation calms us, making us more prone to falling asleep. Another idea is that being non-judgmentally present to our thoughts in the moment can help us let go of fixating on worrisome or stressful thoughts.
One Stanford study found that mindfulness practices performed during the day without focusing on sleep helped children sleep better. Another study found that even short mindfulness meditation training can improve sleep—even if it didn’t change how they felt about their stressful jobs.
Practicing Mindfulness Before Bed to Encourage Better Sleep
Because mindfulness practices performed at any time of day seem to help us sleep better, it’s worth trying one for a few weeks to notice whether it has an impact.
1. Guided meditation
Guided meditation is a mindfulness practice led by an instructor or narrator, with the goal of helping you remain in the present moment. Popular meditation apps like Headspace or Calm often include guided meditations designed to help you sleep. Because meditation is an ongoing practice, it can take some time to get used to. In-person or online classes are another option for this technique.
2. Body scan meditation
This mindfulness technique can be done either on your own or via guided meditation. It works by focusing on each part of your body, from head to toes (or vice versa). This helps you remain in the present moment and can create a calming effect.
3. Yoga or gentle stretching
Doing yoga or gentle stretches before bed is another way to be present in the moment and signal to the body that it’s time for sleep.
4. Practice observing your thoughts without reacting to them
A common meditation technique is to picture your thoughts like clouds. Each time a thought enters your mind, imagine it drifting away across the sky without judgment or attachment.
Other Ways to Encourage Good Sleep
Mindfulness techniques are not a quick fix; they take time and regular practice. While adopting a new mindfulness practice, there are other steps you can take to set yourself up for a good night’s rest.
Read some of our previous posts on encouraging better sleep: