A Mindful Night’s Dream
3 - minute read
How mindfulness can help us have a better night’s sleep
“There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.”
William Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
As the evening darkness descends on these autumn days, do you get the urge to get into bed a little earlier, or stay cosy under your duvet as you press snooze on your alarm for the third time? If you do, you’re not alone.
Less sunlight and colder temperatures can lower our energy levels and make us want to curl up under a blanket with a warm drink, almost waiting for the warmer months to arrive. So, how can mindfulness help bring back our zest for life in autumn and winter? Let’s focus on sleep. Many research studies have shown how mindfulness practice can help us to sleep better. Here are 6 sleepy bedtime rituals you may want to introduce…
1. Take a mindful walk
Each day, try mindful walking outside in nature. Research shows that exposure to sunlight can positively influence our natural circadian rhythm, which is essential for good quality sleep cycles. To include mindfulness in your walk, you can bring more focus to the walking itself and your surroundings. Each time your mind wanders away, try to pay attention to each footstep, the sensations of your feet lifting and landing on the ground, notice the beautiful autumn colours of nature around you, or your warm breath against the cool air.
Being a mindfulness blog, of course it’s only right for me to suggest introducing a meditation before bedtime. Allowing yourself the space to find your inner calm can be the perfect way to unwind and release tension that has built up during the day. Perhaps try a relaxing body scan meditation.
Beginning with your feet, allow all of your focus to be here, notice sensations without judgement, just gentle curiosity. Gradually move up your body, your legs, torso, shoulders and head. You may naturally feel that as you bring your awareness to any tension in your body, instead of pushing it away, the tension begins to subside.
3. Mindful breathing
As Harvard Medical School explain, slow, deep breaths have been shown to lower blood pressure and increase feelings of relaxation. Lying down in bed, place your hand on your tummy and take a slow breath in, noticing the sensation of the oxygen travelling down your throat, to your chest and to your abdomen. Exhale slowly, as the air travels back through your lungs and out of your nose or mouth. Repeat for as long as this feels good, feeling the natural rise and fall of your tummy with each breath. Sometimes just 5 deep breaths like this can help us to feel more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
4. Lose yourself in fantasy
No I’m not talking about bedroom fantasies, although if that’s what relaxes you, carry on! Here I’m talking about jumping into bed a little earlier to delve into a good book to take you to places of wonder, ready for the sweetest dreams.
You’ve probably heard the research that says we should all switch off screens at least an hour before we go to bed. Whilst I am on board with this notion, I also think there is something delightfully indulgent about watching a gripping series in bed sometimes. Although my advice would be to find something that soothes you. Watching a blood pumping series on Netflix may be thrilling, but could actually result in you wanting to watch more light-hearted TV shows afterwards to wind down again, pushing your sleep time later and later. My biggest tip is; definitely don’t watch the news before bedtime! The inevitable barrage of negative information is bound to spark anxiety, even in the calmest of temperaments.
5. Gratitudes to fight the dreary drizzle
Write down or tell someone one thing that you are grateful for each day. The more we practice this, the more happy thoughts will grow. Mindfulness practice can help us to notice our thoughts. At this time of year, maybe you notice more negative thoughts. Without judging them, can you challenge your thoughts and adjust your mindset?
When it is raining, your first thought may be, ‘I wish it wasn’t raining’ and you may list all of the things you can’t do, because of the rain. How about switching that perspective to feel grateful for the things you CAN do when it is raining, such as; listening to the musical pitter patter of rain on the windows, feeling the warmth and comfort inside, how about going for a rainy walk and jumping in muddy puddles – fun for all ages!
Doing this can help us to find just one tiny something to be grateful for each day to warm our heart.
6. Night time notebook
When you lay down to sleep, are you sometimes filled with ideas, or worries? Perhaps you wake at the hoot of the 3am night owl. Often our worries feel 10 times worse in the dark. Writing these down in a notebook on your bedside can help you to let go of some of these thoughts, to enable you to fall asleep with more ease. You’re not pushing them away to lock them in a box, you are just keeping them safe for the morning, when you can come back to them with a much clearer and more rational mind.
Mindfulness can help us to have that great quality sleep so that we wake up happy. Whether your preference is to soak up the sunlight outdoors, or enjoy a soothing meditation before bedtime, it’s about what works for you, to have that dreamy night’s sleep. Wishing you a beautiful mindful night’s sleep tonight!
Sarah is an Occupational Psychologist and Mindfulness Trainer providing mindfulness training to Individuals, School’s and Businesses; sweetening life’s sours with a squeeze of serenity.