Almost one half of British women (43%) are not getting enough sleep, and 45% don’t wake up feeling rested, according to a 2016 study by YouGov and the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association. But why are so many of us suffering with sleep-related problems?
“Modern life exposes our nervous systems to a vast amount of stimulation,” explains Jess Cook, a vedic meditation teacher practising at Will Williams Meditation. “From an evolutionary standpoint, we just haven’t adapted to modern life. It’s no wonder that some of us find it harder to switch off and get a good night’s sleep.”
If drifting off is your issue or you’re suffering with restless nights, you might want to arm yourself with some sleep meditation tricks. You may have dismissed meditation in the past or tried it and decided it’s not for you. But using meditation as a tool to fall asleep can be much simpler than using it to quiet a busy mind (which can take an incredible amount of concentration and practice).
Cook has shared some tricks to help you fall asleep if your mind is racing through your to-do list, and some sleep meditation tips if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night. Keep scrolling to find out more.
DON'T STRESS (Write it down)
“Easier said than done, but it’s all too easy to become even more stressed when we can’t nod off,” explains Cook. “As perfectionists, we put a lot of pressure on our mind and body to do exactly what we want it to do, when we want it to. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way.
“If you’re unable to fall asleep, try to forget about the early morning meeting, the fitness class or the busy day you have ahead, and let yourself just be there, fully present and in the moment. Take a deep breath in, breathing out and releasing any frustrations or expectations.
“If you are going to be awake, you might as well be awake in a state of calm or relaxation as opposed to annoyance or frustration. Plus, you’ll find it easier to drift off to sleep if you are not even trying and if you place no expectations upon yourself.”
An hour or so before bed, why not jot all your worries and your next day’s to-do list into a notepad? That way it will still be there in the morning. You won’t forget anything, so there will be no need for your mind to go over and over everything while you’re trying to fall asleep.
Repeat A Meditative Mantra
“If you find yourself waking up during the night, this can often mean that you’re not in your deepest state of sleep and that your brain is still relatively active. If you wake up, try not to check the clock and definitely don’t try to reach for your phone. Instead, take a deep breath, relax all your muscles and try a gentle vedic meditation to ease yourself back to sleep,” advises Cook.
“In vedic meditation, you slowly and softly repeat a personalised mantra in your head. Much like a meditator’s way of counting sheep! This gentle repetition eases your body into a deep relaxation. If your mind drifts away, please don’t worry—just slowly guide yourself back. After 20 minutes, you should find yourself drifting off (if you haven’t already).”
According to Cook, vedic meditation has been shown to result in a 42% reduction of sleep disorders. If you’re really suffering, Cook recommends practising meditation for 20 minutes twice a day, and you’ll find that your quality and ease of sleep will improve over time.
“The practice improves sleep by lengthening deep sleep cycles, increasing sleep efficiency and increasing total sleep time,” Cook explains. “Furthermore, if you only managed to get a few hours of sleep the night before, try 20 minutes of meditation before you start your day. You’ll find this can also work as a morning energizer to refresh and recharge. As time goes on, vedic meditation will change the way you sleep for the better.”
“Most of us don’t breathe properly. What I mean by this is that a lot of us take shorter breaths and only take in breaths to the upper chest. How we breathe can have an effect on our sleeping patterns. If you find it difficult to drop off to sleep, or if you wake up during the night, try this simple relaxing breathing technique: Take a deep breath through you nose, deep into your belly, filling your diaphragm. Inhale until your stomach is full of air, and then slowly exhale, letting all the air out.
Count this for 10 deep breaths, very slowly and calmly,” says Cook.
Map Your Body
“If you often suffer with trouble nodding off, try this each evening before you go to sleep. Sit on your bed, or lie in a comfortable position above the covers, palms of your hands facing the sky. Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. I want you to scan your body in your mind, starting from the feet up. Draw your mind to your toes, then to your feet and up to your ankles, as if you were filling yourself up. Continue this awareness up your legs, thighs all the way up your body, through to your fingertips, even your eyelids.
Do this process slowly and mindfully. Open your eyes, take a deep breath and exhale,” says Cook. “You feel rested enough to drift off to sleep.”