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Harvesting Happiness sleep foreplayHow stress reduction by day increases sleep by night

Life sure can get busy with all sorts of tasks. We head off to work, get home to cook, clean, take care of children, run errands, and so on. It can make for a stressful life and on top of that many people stress out about things like finances, relationships, health, and so much more. All of this stress can lead to trouble sleeping for sure and doctors will tell you that one of his most frequent complaints of patients is sleep trouble.

No one wants to lie awake at night trying to go to sleep and having no luck. Neither does anyone want to wake up continually, as both make for tired and cranky people the next day. Are there certain things that we can naturally do in order to help falling asleep become easier at night?

Researchers have done much study on how mindfulness can help people feel more relaxed and sleep better at night. Mindfulness is simply the act of being mindful of your body and your thoughts. It is living in the present and staying away from thoughts of the past or future.  Jon Kabat-Zin has done extensive research on how the Zen Buddhist meditation technique of mindfulness can benefit one’s life by reducing stress, negative emotions, and even help reduce chronic pain and illness.


How to practice mindfulness

In order to become mindful, find a nice, quiet spot to sit and relax for a few minutes.  You want to be free from distractions.  Sitting is fine, but you can lie down if that is more comfortable for you.  Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. As you exhale, be sure to focus on relaxing your entire body from your head all the way down to your feet.  Then breathe normally and keep your focus on the inhale and exhale.  As you try to stay focused on your breathing, you’re less likely to be thinking all sorts of thoughts, as your goal is to enjoy the present moment without thoughts running through your mind.

Random thoughts will come sometimes and when they do simply acknowledge them for a moment and then let them go, returning to your focus on the breath.  The longer you can stay in this state, the better. Begin with five or ten minutes daily and increase as you see fit.  What is happening as you engage in mindfulness regularly is that your stress levels are decreasing, which makes it easier to fall asleep at night.


Meditation for sleep

Kabat-Zinn formulated a simple meditation for sleep for those who struggle with insomnia. All you need to do is lie in bed and focus on your inhale and exhale as you relax your entire body. With each breath, feel your body sink further and further down into the mattress. Feel your body get heavier and more relaxed with each breath. Kabat-Zinn also suggested envisioning your breath going out the vast universe and pulling it back in from there. Many people suffering from insomnia have found success using mindfulness meditations such as this.



In an article on mindfulness research published by Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook, Ph.D., of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA (2), current research suggests mindfulness:

– improves regulation of stress as measured by decreased cortisol levels.

– reduces depression, anger and anxiety.

– improves social interactions and relationships, resulting in stress reduction.

– increases sense of calm that results in a better ability to sleep.


Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 4.32.13 PMIt is my continued desire to share knowledge about all things that help us thrive, flourish, create, maintain and share happiness. I can’t emphasize enough what a good night of restorative sleep does for our bodies, minds and emotions. In my experience as health and wellness editor at Sleep and Wellness Magazine I have been called upon to weave a user-friendly true story about the nature of our inner garden and the impact of “sleep-fulness” and sleeplessness upon our overall health and wellbeing. Modern life has made many aspects of the daily routine easier and at the same time, added volumes of stress that make the simple pleasures, such as a great sleep, somewhat illusive. When we learn to slow down and “be” with life, in life and immersed with presence and attention wonderful things can happen. Enjoy this series on the Magic of Sleep!

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