Do you ever have trouble going to sleep? Do you get stressed about not being able to sleep? And do you sometimes perhaps even find yourself getting stressed about the stress you are feeling because you can’t sleep?
If you do find yourself struggling with sleep then you’re by no means alone. About 30% of people have difficulty with sleeping at any one time. And pretty much everyone will experience periods of sleeplessness at some stage in their life. Usually these bouts of reduced sleep correspond to levels of stress. It can be stress from an overactive mind, from a specific emotion which is particularly active, or even from a physical condition.
But in the same way that mental health problems can lead to poor sleep, poor sleep can lead to mental health problems! It is this negative loop which can so quickly spin out of control and which is ultimately responsible for insomnia. You can’t sleep...it causes you to worry...which in turn prevents you from sleeping and so on. And this just underlines the importance of maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy relationship with the thoughts and feelings that appear in the mind.
And perhaps this is the most important thing of all, because although you can’t possibly control all the thoughts and feelings that arise in the mind, you can most definitely be responsible for the way you experience them. So, do you ‘react’, getting frustrated, worried or downhearted? Or do you ‘respond’ with a sense of ease, awareness and acceptance?
Your familiarity with mindfulness and your ability to step back and observe the thoughts and emotions a little more clearly will be critical in turning a ‘reaction’ in to a ‘response’. And this is exactly what you are training your mind to do when you sit and meditate. So it’s no coincidence that meditation has been found to have such a positive effect on insomnia.
According to our Head of Research at Headspace, Tom Freeman - ‘Scientific research looking at the effects of meditation on sleep is blossoming. Recent research comparing mindfulness techniques and pharmaceutical interventions in treating sleep disorders suggests that mindfulness techniques result in a decrease in the time it takes to fall asleep, as well as improvements in total sleep time and sleep efficiency.’ (Gross et al., 2011)
Given that we spend almost a third of our lifetime in bed, its no wonder that sleep is such a big issue for most people. But it doesn’t have to be, it really doesn’t.
So why not get some Headspace and see whether meditation helps you sleep? Try our Take10 programme for free and if you find that you're benefitting from a little more Headspace in your life, you can take advantage of our fantastic offer for Psychology Today readers.
Reference: Gross, C., Kreitzer, M., Reilly-Spong, M., Wall, M., Winbush, N., Patterson, R., Mahowald, M. & Cramer-Bornemann, M. (2011). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs. pharmacotherapy for primary chronic insomnia: A pilot randomized controlled clinical trial. Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing. 7, 2. 76-87.