Meditation to Help You Sleep

Meditation to Help You Sleep

Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and when we lose out on sleep it can have lasting effects on our physical and mental health. When you are finding it hard to sleep due to outside influences such as stress, illness or chronic pain you can use meditation to help you sleep. Sleep meditations can settle a restless mind and body and help us drift off. They are a much more healthy alternative to sleeping tablets or repeated restless nights of tossing and turning.

What is meditation?

Meditation is a way to train your mind to be more aware of the present moment. We tend to get caught up in our thoughts the most at bedtime when we finally have the time and space to reflect on our day.

Meditation helps lower your heart rate which encourages slower breathing. It is a natural sleep aid as when we meditate we let go of the stresses of our day, allowing us to rest and prepare the mind for relaxation. As a result, this may increase the chance of a peaceful night’s sleep.

What is keeping us up at night?

Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Being exhausted and overworked should not be a sign of success if you snooze you definitely do not lose.

We’ve all experienced nights when as soon as our head hits the pillow your mind kicks into overdrive. There are many things that keep us up at night, stress, worries, anxiety and technology all play a role in disrupting our sleep habits.

Regularly sleeping fewer than seven hours a night increases the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Sleep deprivation can cause impairments in short and long-term memory, decision making, attention and reaction time.

Why might you choose to meditate before bed?

If you have insomnia or difficulty falling asleep, meditation has been shown to improve the time it takes you to fall asleep and the quality of sleep you will enjoy.

Meditation for sleep should be approached the same way we approach meditation in the daytime with a relaxed gentle, focus. When we allow the body to relax we are not trying to force sleep but to aid relaxation. You want to stay away from encouraging more thoughts or tension within your body.

Types of meditation

Breathing exercises

This involves regulating your breath, such as counting breaths, alternating breaths and holding and letting go of your breath.

Mindful body scanning

This is often a guided meditation. As you lie on your bed, you will be asked to notice the breath and any areas of tension in your body. Then, starting from the head, you can think of releasing any tensions held in each part of your body, part by part.

Visualizations

A visualization asks you to imagine an image or scene to help release the stress or tension from within.

Counting

To slow the mind down you may be invited to count slowly: starting at 10 and counting backwards to one, then starting at 10 again.

A simple meditation exercise for bedtime

Before you begin a sleep meditation there are a few steps to take.

  1. Lie in your bed flat on your back, take a few deep breaths and close your eyes.
  2. Allow your body to be still and rested
  3. If you’re using a guided meditation, follow the instructions.
  4. If practising an unguided meditation do so at a pace that feels natural to you.

Shall we begin?

Start by scanning through your body, looking for areas of tension

Start counting your breaths, in and out.  If your mind wanders, keep bringing it back to counting your breath, one to ten. The idea is to step away from the worried thinking and give your mind a different object to concentrate on for a while so you can drift back off to sleep.

Focus on these areas of tension and imagine letting go of it, releasing it with your breath.

Begin with your head, moving slowly throughout your body, scanning for areas of tension and releasing this tension with your outward breath. Move all the way down to your toes. This process can take as long or as short as you like ideally, you could dedicate 10 minutes to this relaxation technique.

It can be hard to do this yourself, so if you are looking for help you can find guided meditation in a variety of places including YouTube, Podcasts, CDs & even on Spotify.

Remember to dedicate this time to yourself, your sleep is important and so is your health. Self-care is important and you deserve a peaceful, restful sleep1.

 

 

Meditation to Help You Sleep

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How Stress Affects your Sleep

How Stress Affects your Sleep

Stress can impact your life in many ways but how does stress affect your sleep? It’s late at night, you’re lying in bed, worrying and feeling anxious, which makes it almost impossible to turn off your brain, relax and fall asleep. People who suffer from chronic stress find they have poorer sleep quality and find it harder to function during the day.

The science of stress

When you experience a perceived threat your body’s stress response is triggered. As a result, your body will experience physical changes such as shallow breathing and a burst of energy from the release of adrenaline and cortisol. This is sometimes described as the fight or flight response, but it isn’t always the appropriate way to deal with the stresses of modern life.

How does stress affect sleep?

If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. When you enter a deep sleep the brain chemicals tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. As a result, when you don’t sleep well, your body keeps pumping out those stress hormones. When you wake up the next day, you feel more stressed and the following night you might find it harder to fall asleep. The more exhausted you feel, the harder it is for you to focus at work and at home, leading to even more stress. This can make you irritable with friends and family, causing stress over relationships1.

Sleep and Busy People

Busy people may have trouble getting enough sleep because being busy and not devoting 8 hours a night to sleep can trigger the stress response. This can lead to a cycle of stress and trouble falling asleep. It’s important to allow yourself 8 hours for sleep at nighttime, no matter how busy you may be.

Stress, sleep and your health

People who have high, prolonged levels of stress have a higher risk of heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, stomach issues, and more. They are also more likely to grind or clench their teeth, which can lead to dental problems. That’s why it’s so important if you feel overly tense, to try different stress relief methods and to make getting plenty of sleep a high priority2.

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What Is Insomnia?

What Is Insomnia?

Have you ever had long periods where you find it difficult to get to sleep? Are you often up late at night counting down the hours until you have to get up? You may be wondering if you have insomnia, but just what is insomnia and how do you overcome this common sleep disorder?

What is it?

Insomnia is a common sleep condition that causes the sufferer to experience difficulty in falling asleep or even staying asleep. People with insomnia tend to have difficulty falling asleep (onset), staying asleep (maintenance), and/or they wake up too early in the morning. Sufferers can experience sleeplessness even when there are ideal conditions for falling asleep and when they are not disturbed1.

What are the symptoms?

  • Feeling as if sleep was unrefreshing.
  • Experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • General lack of energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Mood and behaviour disturbances such as irritability, aggression, and impulsive behaviours.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Decreased performance at work or school.
  • Troubles in personal and professional relationships.
  • Decreased quality of life.
  • Depression2.

How long will it last?

Insomnia is characterized based on the length of time the sufferer experiences sleeplessness.

 Acute insomnia

This often happens because of life circumstances such as bad news, external stressors, anxiety or depression. Many people may have experienced this type of sleep disruption and will find that it tends to resolve without any treatment required.

Chronic insomnia

This is categorised by disrupted sleep that happens at least three nights a week and lasts for at least three months. There are many causes for experiencing chronic insomnia. Changes in the environment, unhealthy sleep habits, shift work, other health conditions, and certain medications can all affect our sleep patterns. If you suffer from chronic insomnia you should get in touch with your doctor who can help you restore a healthy sleep pattern3.

What should I do if I think I have insomnia?

If you think you are suffering from insomnia it is important to go to your doctor. You and your doctor will need to talk about things that could impact on your sleep and your sleep history, to therefore determine the best way to help you 4.

Stuff you should know

  • Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders with approximately half of adults report having symptoms of insomnia at one point in their lives.
  • 10% of people have experienced chronic insomnia.
  • It is more likely to occur in women than in men.
  • It is more likely to affect elderly adults.
  • People who are naturally more awake and alert may be more likely to suffer.
  • If you regularly use stimulants and alcohol you may experience it more often.
  • People with poor sleep hygiene practices are more likely to experience the condition.

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Stress and Sleep Around the Holiday Season

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Five ways to help combat stress around the holiday season

Rest

Often easier said than done, a great way to minimize the build-up of stress is to take regular rest breaks. It is important to make sure to take time to rest and relax each day. This can help to keep your body and mind healthy, especially during busy or pressure-filled times like the Christmas holiday season.

Resting for even just five minutes here and there throughout the day can be enough to diffuse and offset a build up of stress.

Eat well

During the holiday season, many of us will overindulge and give ourselves permission to forget about eating healthy. It’s best to remember to enjoy your food in moderation. A quick trick is to eat slower. It takes the brain approximately twenty minutes to let us know that our stomach is full. When you eat slower, you eat less and will feel less full and bloated afterwards.

Another strategy is to eat a little bit at a time, then give yourself twenty minutes before you eat more. If you do this, you may discover that you don’t need or want as much as you originally thought.

Being selective about how much you overindulge can help prevent the unnecessary stress that comes from eating a lot of unhealthy food. The more you manage your stress now, the less of an issue it will once the Christmas season is over.

Drink in moderation

Alcohol is a drug that lowers your mood and has a negative effect on the body. While you may feel good WHEN you are drinking, your body will experience the negative effects afterwards. Be mindful about what how much you drink because it ALL has an effect on your body, mind, and mood.

Practise mindfulness

Living in the moment is a great way to discover the present joys in life. You can do this by practising mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being present in the moment. It can reduce anxiety since anxiety occurs when we think about the future in an overwhelming manner. The more time you spend in the present, the less time you’ll spend worrying about the future.

Don’t put holiday pressure on yourself

The Christmas season is often filled with things you feel you ‘have to’ or ‘should’ do. Most often, doing things we feel we have to do can create stress, and for people who are overly anxious, anxiety.

So this holiday season, plan on doing more things you want to do rather than things you feel you have to do. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to requests or demands you don’t want to fulfil. Spending your time doing the things you want to do this holiday season is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. You are not being selfish by putting your mental health first. 1

How to sleep better when you are stressed

When we get stressed we cannot sleep and then the stress gets worse. It is a never-ending cycle that has bad consequences for our mental and physical health. Managing your stress is an important way to ensuring you have a better quality of sleep.

Relaxation techniques

If you are feeling overwhelmed there are a number of ways you can help calm down your brain. There are many relaxation strategies that can help such as breathing techniques, mindfulness or guided meditation. Allow yourself time to dedicate to relaxing before bed, some guided meditations can last less than 10 minutes and help you switch off and drift off.

Belly breathing

Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
  4. Do this breathing 3 to 10 times.
  5. Take your time with each breath.

4-7-8 breathing

This exercise also uses belly breathing to help you relax. You can do this exercise either sitting or lying down.

  1. To start, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise.
  2. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
  3. Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.
  4. Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
  5. Repeat 3 to 7 times or until you feel calm.2

Switch off the smartphone

Our smartphones give off a blue light that can interfere with our body’s natural rhythm, try switching your screen to night mode if your phone supports this, remember to dim down the brightness and try to resist from going on your phone an hour before bedtime. To learn more about your body’s circadian rhythm you can read about it in our handy introduction article here.

Take a hot bath or shower

Taking a hot bath or shower will help you unwind and de-stress. Plus going from warm water into a cooler bedroom will cause your body temperature to drop, naturally making you feel sleepy.

Journalling

Often at night time, we can go over our daily to-do lists and worry about workload or the upcoming daily tasks. It can be helpful to write all these feelings down before bedtime or even write a to-do list to get these worries out of your head and onto paper.

Exercise

Regular exercise can help to promote a deeper sleepExercising during the day reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body, but avoid exercising within three hours of bedtime.

Avoid alcohol & caffeine

Avoid caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. As a stimulant, it will keep you awake. Alcohol is a depressant that you might think will help you fall asleep. However, when your body metabolizes it during the sleep cycle, it often disrupts sleep and wakes you up. 3

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Allergies During the Holiday Season

Allergies During the Holiday Season

Mould & Mildew

Mildew and mould spores float in the air like pollen and your exposure to it may increase during the holidays because they love damp evergreens like the wreaths, boughs and trees we bring inside this time of year.

How to control Mould Allergies:

A 2011 study performed by staff at the SUNY Upstate Medical University and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that a Christmas tree could increase the number of mould spores in an apartment by about 6 and a half times1!

Christmas trees and wreaths carry mould spores. If mould affects you, you may consider making the switch to artificial decorations. If you simply can’t do without your Christmas tree then there are other ways to keep mould to a minimum. Hose plants down before bringing them inside to get rid of existing spores.

Artificial decorations can indeed reduce allergy but they too can become damp or grow mould. Ensure your artificial decorations are stored in dry containers and have been packaged correctly. 

Air purifiers, dehumidifiers and sprays that target mould can make a difference in tackling the spores that cause your allergic reaction.

Dust mites

These tiny allergens can be even more aggravating around the holidays when the air gets damp and we spend time in hotel rooms or staying with friends and relatives.

How to control Dustmite Allergies:

Keep symptoms in check at home by changing air filters frequently, washing your bedding in hot water at 60 degrees weekly and by buying allergy-resistant encasement covers for pillows and mattress. Dust mites thrive in humidity, so a good way to keep indoor humidity between 30% and 50% is to invest in a dehumidifier.

During the holiday season, you often find yourself staying with friends, relatives and in hotels. When travelling it’s a good idea to bring your own pillow with an anti-allergy protective cover. When staying in a hotel you can request a down-free pillow or even bring your own pillow encasements to keep allergic reactions to a minimum.

Food

The Holiday Season means lots of dining away from home, plenty of seasonal foods and lots of parties! All of which make it likely you’ll accidentally eat foods you’re allergic to.

Ways to control Food Allergies:

The first and best treatment for food allergies is to avoid what you’re allergic to. At seasonal gatherings with friends and family communication is key. Tell them about your food allergies, ask about ingredients in meals and desserts, discuss alternatives with them and ask for their help so you can avoid the foods you’re allergic to, the last thing your family or friends want is to make you unwell around the holiday season.

Pets

Symptoms of pet allergies can worsen around the holidays. Pets are indoors more, both at your house and in the homes of friends and family2.

Ways to control Pet Allergies:

To reduce the likelihood of a reaction for yourself or your visitors this holiday season there are a few things you can do. Firstly minimize your contact with pets and keep them strictly out of the bedrooms to reduce the amount of allergen in the room. Make sure to bathe your pets weekly, if possible, to wash away dander and other allergens from their fur. Change your clothes, bathe and wash your hair after playing with your pet and before going to bed[3]. Wash your hands and face frequently and keep your floors swept, and carpets vacuumed.

Air purifiers and sprays that target allergies to pets can make a difference in tackling the protein in the dander that causes your allergic reaction.

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