We’ve all experienced stress. And while there are ways to combat its effects, sometimes it still wreaks havoc on our lives, particularly on our sleep health. Once we start losing sleep, we feel more stressed because we’re tired and unable to concentrate the next day. This can lead to more loss of sleep and more stress, until it feels like being trapped in a vicious cycle. The good news is there’s a way out of the cycle.
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Your sleep and your mind
While it’s no surprise that stress interrupts healthy sleeping patterns, it’s important to discuss just how much of an impact it can have. The American Psychological Association conducted a survey of healthy Americans and found that 37 percent reported feeling tired or fatigued due to stress. “More than half reported feeling sluggish or lazy, 38 percent reported feeling irritable, 29 percent reported having trouble concentrating, and 25 percent reported feeling no motivation to take care of responsibilities.”
Negative consequences of stress-induced sleep disruption include being more at risk for lowered immune function, upset stomach, high blood pressure, mood swings, and even dental issues such as bruxism (clenching or grinding teeth).
To tackle these problems, we can look to the mind. For self-soothing, eliminating stress, and getting to a better mental place, the solution may lie in mindfulness meditation. For more great advice on beating stress download the free SleepScore App.
What is mindfulness meditation?
According to a report from Harvard Medical School, mindfulness is really a heightened awareness during which individuals focus on “moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotion.” In other words, it’s about bringing your mind’s attention to the present, without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. When practiced as a meditation exercise, mindfulness can create a sense of calm and relaxation that few other activities offer.
Learn a simple mindfulness technique
Take a comfortable position either sitting or lying down.
Focus on your breath or choose a focus such as a word (relax, breathe, calm, peace, etc.), a sound (ohm is a popular choice), a short prayer or relaxing poem, or a mantra such as “breathe in calmness, exhale tension.”
Begin by breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Take slow, gentle breaths and notice how the air feels. To help release stress, take plenty of time as you exhale. It can help to visualize your breath going all the way down your body as you breathe out.
Bring your attention to the present moment and the focus you have chosen.
Let everything else go. It’s normal for the mind to wander when you’re learning how to meditate. When that happens, just notice it and then return the focus, shifting back into the mindfulness.
Start by trying this technique for 10 minutes each evening to help you shift gears and enjoy healthy, restorative sleep.