Sleep and the Mindfulness Paradox
Often when we are struggling to sleep we do whatever we can to try to fall asleep. We end up clock-watching, thinking about how little time we have left before the alarm is due to go off. We worry about whether we will sleep in. We criticize ourselves for not getting to bed earlier. We get annoyed by our partner, snoring beside us! We can feel as though we are the only person in the world who is awake, and problems always seem bigger at 4am!
In other words, we block out our actual experience and in trying to change things we often make things worse. The more we try to sleep, the more tense and anxious we become, and the more awake we feel!
The mindfulness paradox is that often when we want something to change we need to remain exactly where we are. Instead of fighting our experience and trying to sleep, a more mindful approach would be to notice your present moment experience as you lie in bed.
When Struggling to Sleep:
Try the following:
1. Notice your breathing. Particularly focus on sensations in your abdomen or the back of your body.
2. Release tension. Notice if you feel any tension in your body. Particularly notice your shoulders, neck, jaw and hands. See if you can soften any tension or bring a sense of kindness to it.
3. Appreciate your surroundings. Notice the sensation of contact with your sheets and duvet. Appreciate the softness and the sensation of being warm enough. If you are not warm enough then do something about it if you can!
4. Come back to now. When you notice that you are worrying about something that may or may not happen the next day see if you can bring your attention back to the present moment. Ask yourself ‘what’s happening now?’ The worrisome thought may come back and that’s ok. You may need to bring your attention back to the moment over and over.
5. You are not alone! Remind yourself that everyone experiences sleeplessness sometimes.
6. Get some rest. Even if you are awake, if you are lying in bed, you will still be getting some rest. Try and focus on this rather than the lack of sleep.