Are you struggling with poor sleep, experiencing fatigue during the day, or worried during the day and throughout the night with problems that keep you from allowing deeply restorative sleep to heal what troubles you?

Daily mindfulness practice can be the key to unlocking the door to optimal sleep. Mindfulness has been found to be a very effective and evidence-based approach to bringing significant relief to many health problems, including poor sleep. Get started today with ten mindfulness keys for unlocking the door to optimal sleep.

First Key: Realize that life is only found in the present moment.  When you find yourself stressing about the past or future, allow yourself to say “STOP” to distressing activities of the mind and body. I have found that the behavioral sleep health strategies of Barry Krakow, MD, from Maimonides Sleep Arts & Sciences in Albuquerque, New Mexico can be very helpful in just stopping and observing the contents of mind and body and allowing for more peaceful and restorative sleep.

Second Key: Observe the breath going in and out of your body, noticing thoughts, feelings, sensations, and distractions as just temporary mental formations. Focus again on the breath.

Third Key: Observe the body and allow the breath to go to any tight or tense places to nurture and partner with that part of the body that may be in distress. I would recommend Dr. Herb Benson’s approach entitled the “Relaxation Response,” to allow the mind and body to be at rest and ready for sleep. Dr. Benson’s approach is part of Dr. Gregg Jacob’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia program from both the Harvard and the University of Massachusett’s Medical Schools and has been shown to be more effective than medication management of insomnia.

Fourth Key: Practice non-judgment and gentle compassion with yourself and the temporary images, feelings, thoughts, and sensations of the mind and body. When you do this, you are de-centering, which means you are seeing yourself as bigger than temporary present moment difficulties or worries about the past or future. I would again site the work of Barry Krakow, MD, whose work with balancing thoughts, feelings, and images is very effective in lessening anxiety and readying the body for sleep.

Fifth Key: Allow for both healing and distress to exist together peacefully, just toggling back and forth between the two and realizing that both can co-exist at the same time.  

Sixth Key: Bring metaphors to the present moment. For example, you can imagine yourself as a loving parent or friend bringing kindness, love, and patience to what is a fragile and distressing part of your present moment experience.  

Seventh Key: Practice continuous observation. When you practice observation instead of judgment, you can just observe and witness and not become overwhelmed and victimized by distress.

Eighth Key: Allow yourself to notice the healing aspects of the present moment. Gently allow yourself to notice what is pleasant in the here and now. Examples include thinking about a loved one, enjoying aspects of nature, reciting a prayer or meditation, and simply enjoying your breath. The more you can deeply and experientially imagine something nurturing and positive, the easier it will be to fall asleep.

Ninth Key: Move gently towards, and not away from the experience of distress.  Notice how much better you are able to better self-regulate and withstand distress, understanding that you are more empowered than you think. Allow distress to dissipate gradually over time.

Tenth Key: Notice what is neutral in the present moment.  Transform what is neutral or distressing into something very nurturing. Examples include experiencing gratitude while taking a shower, brushing your teeth, taking out the trash, sweeping the floor, or eating a meal.  Be grateful for the non-toothache. Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in the 1960’s by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shares that an awareness of what is not hurting you or causing you irritation in the present moment can deepen your enjoyment of the present moment and allow you to live life more fully and deeply in the present moment.

As you engage in the daily practice of the ten mindfulness keys for optimal sleep, you will lessen distress in your life. You will begin to enjoy life at a deeper level, have more fulfilling relationships, develop better boundaries around what is distressing you, and be able to take full advantage of optimal sleep.

Original Copywrite by Ed Glauser, August 9, 2012, mindbodymedicinenetwork

About the Authors

Ann Glauser, Ph.D.

Ann Glauser, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia.

Ed Glauser, M.Ed.

Ed Glauser, M.Ed., is a clinician who writes about insomnia, pain, and stress.

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