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Meditate And Relax

Some of us find it incredibly hard to switch off once we’re in bed and ready to go to sleep. Technology doesn’t help and if we’re out of sync with our body clock and not eating the right foods the effects can also impact negatively on sleep quality. But stress is also a major factor. In fact, stress stops over 50% of us from falling asleep easily.*

Meditation and relaxation are incredibly useful tools and when used as part of a good sleep routine can be very powerful in helping your mind and body get into the right mode for sleep. Read The Art of Falling Asleep for some simple and effective techniques to use here, or read on below…

For over half of us, money worries and stress are the main things that stop us from falling to sleep easily. In addition, a third of us also wake up in the middle of the night with something on our mind.²²

Learning to meditate is a great way to retrain your brain away from stressful, fear based thinking and also helps you to relax and get off to sleep more easily. Meditation is proven to have numerous health benefits, not least because it increases levels of the feel good endorphins and lowers the stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol.

Meditation can be done before getting into the bedroom, or sitting in your bedroom before you get into bed (in order to reinforce the protocol/sleep habit that your bed is for sleeping in). Guided meditations with CDs and recordings are a great way to wind down.

Stress produces the flight or fight response in the body, raising our adrenalin levels, causing our muscles to tense and increasing our heart rate. At this point, our minds start to churn and our brain produces more beta waves, which keeps us awake and alert.

RELAXATION TECHNIQUE USING YOUR BREATH USING YOUR BREATH

Bring your hands onto your belly, and focus on visualizing the air coming into your lungs:

•Breathe in slowly for 4 seconds

Hold your breath for 4 seconds

•Breathe out for 5 seconds

Hold your breath for 5 seconds

This both slows your breathing down, and relaxes you.

RELAXATION TECHNIQUE USING YOUR MUSCLES

Relax your muscles one at a time to bring you back ‘into your body’ and help you switch off. Start at the bottom of your body, then work up to your head muscle by breathing in and out through your nose as you tense and relax. Start by tensing your toes for 10 seconds then relaxing them. As you do this visualize the muscle becoming tense, then relax it quickly and pause. Then move up to your calves, contract for ten seconds then relax for ten, then your knees, thighs, buttocks, back, stomach, hands, forearms, backs of arms, shoulders neck and finally, screw up your face and relax each muscle group in turn.

CALMING YOUR MIND

Slowing your breathing is also a great way of getting to sleep faster. Using a method called the 4-7-8 technique in bed, you can both relax your mind and reduce your heart rate.

•Lock the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth

•Hold it there as you close your mouth

•Breathe in for 4 seconds

•Hold the breath for 7 seconds

•Exhale for 8 seconds

Repeat this up to 5 times every night as part of your bedtime routine.

TO HELP YOU UNWIND

Another simple trick is to write down your 'to-do list' for the next day before you get into bed. So all the things you are worried about getting done for the next day, or in a certain amount of time, are on paper. If you find your mind continuing to race once you are in bed, then put a pencil and paper next to the bed so you can get your thoughts out of your mind, rather than continue to let your brain churn on and on.

TO HELP YOU DRIFT OFF TO SLEEP

Once you have gone through your bedtime ritual and you are in bed, ready to sleep, transport yourself in to a setting that makes you feel happy, where you are doing something active which you are participating in.

Set yourself into a scene where you have a series of steps to walk through. This process will force your brain to detach from your daily world and allow your mind to relax and help you fall to sleep.

Perhaps this is your favourite place or a setting on holiday, or maybe you are opening batting for England at Lords. If you enjoy shopping and find it relaxing this could even be shopping at your favourite centre, walking through the various shops and stalls and picking up the items you want and need. You might be in your garden, enjoying planting, watering and nurturing.

ROLL YOUR EYES BACK

Close your eyes and roll them up and down slowly again and again for about a minute. Then pause for about 10 seconds and then repeat. This is thought to mimic what happens when we go to sleep. Doing this for a few minutes every night can make you feel sleepy.

TELL YOURSELF NOT TO SLEEP

This may sound odd, but trying not to sleep can get you to sleep quicker. A study from Glasgow university showed removing the anxiety of having to fall asleep helps us to get to sleep more easily. When insomniacs who found it hard to get to sleep were told to lay in bed and to try and stay awake with their eyes open, they fell asleep quicker than participants who were told to fall asleep. This is called a “paradoxical intention” as it focuses on the opposite of what we are trying to do.²³

BREATHING THROUGH YOUR LEFT NOSTRIL

This is a yoga technique which involves lying on your left hand side. Then you put a finger on your right nostril and gently breathe with your left. This is a good way to calm the mind and slow you down.

LISTEN TO SLOW MUSIC

Music which has a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute, can help lull you to sleep. One study of students who found it hard to get to sleep found that listening to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes before bed showed significant improvement in sleep quality.²4
Your heart rate at rest is between 50 and 90 beats per minute and slower music closer to 60 beats per minute is likely to relax you more. Products like Sleepphones®, a headband with speakers inside, are a great way to source music when you are going to sleep.

GIVE YOURSELF ACUPRESSURE

Acupressure is based on pressing the acupuncture points of the body with our fingers rather than a needle. There are a number of special acupressure points in the body which we can press gently but firmly to help make us feel sleepy.

The first is your ‘third eye point’ which is located between your eyebrows at the top of the nose. This point is in the bend where the bridge of the nose meets the forehead.

The next is between your big toe and second toe, on top of the foot in the depression between them.

There is also a point just below the nail and on the upper side of your second toe. There is also one on the sole of your foot, which is one third of the way back from the tips of your toes in the middle of the sole of the foot.

You can try different techniques such as pressing these points for a minute or two, or holding for 20 seconds then pausing and repeating twice more, as both can work.

MINDFULNESS MATTERS

Great help and advice on mindfulness is available from The Mindfulness Project, via their website and mindfulness courses at their London centre, www.londonmindful.com

Like This?

You can read our sleep guide in full, here. Tell us what you think, we would love to hear from you!

You can WIN a pair of SleepPhones® thanks to our sleep campaign, an incredible innovation which helps remove unwanted noise and helps you relax and get your body and mind into a peaceful state! Enter here!

DISCLAIMER

Whilst great care has been taken compiling the information within this guide, it is intended as a resource for general information only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your GP if you have ongoing problems or concerns regarding your sleep.

The statements and suggestions made within the text have not been evaluated by the NHS and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or illness.

Always consult with your healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking or stopping any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have any health problem.

22 Warren Evans survey, 2016

23 Broomfield, et al 2003

24 Hamed et al J adv Nurse, 2008

*Warren Evans Consumer Research conducted by OnePoll from 26th - 28th October 2016. 1,000 people polled

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