Do you feel sleepy during the day, but then your mind starts racing as soon as you climb into bed? Or do you often wake up suddenly at 3 a.m. only to lie there, staring at the ceiling until the sun comes up? If so, you may be one of the 50 to 70 million adults who struggle with sleep.
Sleep disturbances are common year-round but can spike during time changes like Daylight Saving Time (DST). Even though the fall time change appears to offer us an extra hour, it confuses the body’s natural circadian rhythm in a way that’s similar to jet lag. Because of this, many adults experience less sleep over the course of the week following DST in the fall.
Fortunately, research-backed mindfulness practices are easy, inexpensive, and effective tools to improve sleep quality.
In a 2015 study on older adults, participants who practiced mindfulness exercises, including meditation, during a six-week class improved their nighttime sleep quality. They also saw improvement in their daytime functioning as compared to those who received six weeks of education about sleep hygiene and relaxation methods.
Additionally, when researchers studied the effect of mindfulness interventions like body scan and breathing meditations on adults with chronic insomnia, they found exceptional results. Participants who received eight weeks of meditation classes and education saw significant improvements in sleep quality, including time spent awake at night, as compared to those who only kept a sleep diary. This sleep improvement continued for at least three months past the treatment.
Similar results were demonstrated in 2021 by researchers who examined the effectiveness of the mindfulness app Calm on adults with sleep disturbances. Participants who meditated for at least 10 minutes per day using the Calm app for eight weeks experienced improvements related to fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and perceived sleep quality as compared to those who were asked to not alter their routines for the same eight-week period.
Mindfulness sleep studies often feature body scan meditations, which systematically guide your attention to different body parts. Body scan meditations can help you physically relax, mentally settle, and sleep more soundly. You can try a body scan meditation when you’re ready for bed, if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, or even during the day to relax.
To begin, lie on your back (if possible) and gently close your eyes. If thoughts or other distractions pull you away, that’s OK—simply return your attention to the body, wherever you left off. Sometimes the body needs permission to rest, so it can be helpful to invite parts of the body to “turn off” as you move through the meditation. This guided meditation can help ease you into a state of rest and relaxation.
Music credit: Chris Collins, https://indiemusicbox.com
Welcome. Welcome to this body scan meditation where we will be systematically guiding the attention throughout the body and as we do so, we will invite each part of the body to relax and it can be helpful during the meditation to mentally invite the different parts of the body to turn off just turning off for now acknowledging that the body has done its work and now the parts
of the body can rest.
Sometimes the body needs permission to rest.
So you can begin by lying down in bed or sitting upright somewhere else if that’s comfortable for you. Just remembering there is no one right way to do this. This is a time set aside just for you.
For you to nourish yourself in this special way.
So if you’re lying down, let your arms rest gently at your side.
Let your feet naturally fall apart.
If you’re sitting, rest your hands effortlessly in a comfortable position.
And I invite you to gently close the eyes, turning inward, and begin by feeling the heaviness of the body now
Feeling the gentle pull of gravity.
Surrendering to gravity just a bit.
Begin to notice that you are breathing.
You may even want to put one hand or two on the lower belly and experience the rising and falling of the belly as you breathe in and breathe out
Feeling the air moving into the body, expanding the belly, perhaps now allowing the hands
to rest at your side. Just follow your natural breath.
Following the movement of the air, in through the nose, traveling down the mouth, into the lungs, into the belly, Just being with the rhythm of the breath.
Now, inviting your attention all the way down to the feet.
Starting with the toes. Beginning to notice any sensation here in the toes.
It may even be a very subtle sensation.
And if it’s nothing at all, that’s okay too. You can notice that. You can even wiggle the toes a bit.
Just to notice what that feels like.
And then very tenderly, mentally whispering to the toes.
This is an invitation to the toes to settle.
Giving the toes permission to rest.
So not a forceful instruction to turn off but it is a kind invitation and allowing the attention now to expand into the feet feeling any sensations here noticing the balls of the feet.
Feeling the arch of the feet. The tops of their feet.
And breathing in through the nose and sending the breath into the feet and on the out
breath, just letting go, letting be.
Mentally whispering to the feet. Turn off and simply letting the sensations dissolve as you sink deeper into the surface beneath you.
And gently expanding your attention to the knees.
These knees which move in amazing ways.
Sensing deeply into the knees.
The tops of the knees and the back.
And appreciating the complex ways in which the knees help us every day.
And giving the knees permission to rest now. Breathing down into the knees. And on the out breath. Letting go, letting be inviting the knees to turn off or perhaps let be and moving the attention to the upper legs exploring the front of the thighs, the soft underneath part, part perhaps even sensing any small hairs on the thighs, any tingling here on the surface.
And then sensing all the way into the bone
Is there a heaviness here? Or perhaps a lightness.
Experiencing your very own thighs.
Breathing into the thighs. And then on the out breath, letting go. giving the thighs permission to turn off
Allowing the thighs to dissolve as you sink deeply.
You know, resting your awareness on the entire lower body the legs, knees, feet, and
toes. Breathing into this area and breathing out, letting be, letting go. And turning off and allowing your attention to include the hips the pelvis, the groin area, buttocks in
contact with the floor, becoming aware of all sensations here.
Whatever they may be or no sensations at all.
Simply breathing into this whole pelvic area and on the out breath, just letting go.
Letting go of any tightness, Inviting the pelvic area to turn off and gently guiding the
attention to the lower back.
This is a place for many of accumulated tension So experiencing whatever is here now breathing into the lower back, and on the out breath, turning off Letting it all go and allowing the mind’s eye to explore the entire back
Tiptoeing the attention of the spine.
Noticing if there’s any intensity in the back where we may be carrying some stress or
tension Just being with your very own back.
Breathing into the large muscles here.
And on the out breath. Mentally, gently whispering.
Turn off letting go letting be as you sink deeper and deeper and moving your attention
gently around to the belly sensing any movement here.
Any rising or falling of the belly as you breathe.
Perhaps even acknowledging your stomach any other organs inside your abdomen and how much they do for us. These organs are often affected by stress,
So giving the entire belly region permission to let go to let be
Turning off moving your attention to the chest area sensing any movement here
Sending your attention and your breath to this region like a caress to your lungs and your
Breathing into them, and on the out breath, just letting be, letting go, and bringing your attention to your arms down into the wrists.
And the hands and your fingers.
These incredible instruments which allow you to connect with the world
Your hands which allow you to create and to work and to take and to take care of yourself
There’s nothing more that the hands need to do right now
Nothing else to fix. Just giving them permission to soften, letting go of any tension, letting be turn off and sensing this whole upper body region, the arms, the front of the torso, the back, sending breath into this upper body and on the out breath, kindly whispering, turn off as you sink deeper and deeper into a state of rest and relaxation and moving up to the head noticing your chin and jaw and these regions are often clenched
So softening the jaw.
Sensing inside the mouth softening through the tongue, allowing it to rest.
Inviting all of these muscles of speech to turn off let be let go moving into the cheeks.
The nose, the ears, becoming aware of the micro muscles, the tiny bones of the face that allow you to feel and smell and listen.
And inviting them to soften giving them permission to rest.
Mentally whispering. Turn off and moving to the eyes.
Gently sensing the eyelids, Softening the corners of the eyes. And the micro muscles behind the eyes.
Allowing the eyebrows to widen and releasing any tension in the space between the brows.
Allowing the eye area to soften turn off let be and sensing into your whole
face Breathing into it like a caress and on the out breath letting
it all go and moving into the top of the head.
Including the forehead Breathing into the forehead. And on the out breath, just allowing it, to be letting go of any tension
Feeling into the scalp softening any muscles of the scalp breathing all the way up to the
crown and on the out breath, letting it all go inviting the crown of the head to turn off and getting a sense of the entire body now from the crown of the head. Down the face the shoulders, the torso, the lower body all the way into the feet and the toes feeling the heaviness of the body, and inviting the entire body to turn off, to rest, and if you like, you can reconnect to the sensation of the breath in the soft body experiencing this connection of body and breath as you sink deeper and deeper into a state of rest. And relaxation and well-being.
I will leave you in silence now. To stay in touch with the body and the breath
(soft music playing)
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