Total Access Medical - Direct Primary Care Blog

Curing Insomnia with Mindfulness Meditation

Posted by William Kirkpatrick on Dec 09, 2016

benefits-of-employee-wellness-programs.pngEach night millions of Americans struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. Are you one of these people who endure restless, sleepless nights? Research is uncovering mindfulness to be one of the most powerful sleep aids on the planet. 

What Causes Insomnia? 

Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and certain biological factors.

But, one of the primary causes of insomnia is stress. Stress causes insomnia by making it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep, and by affecting the quality of your sleep. Stress also causes hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness. 

Think of it as a switch inside your head. When you lay down at night, your mind should be able to turn off all the internal noise so that it can relax, reduce brain waves and give itself time to regenerate.

However, if overload causes that switch to get stuck in the “on” position, your mind remains in an alert state. 

What are the Side Effects of Insomnia? 

Insomnia can have a significant negative impact on your health, increasing your risk of depression and high blood pressure, your quality of life and performance.

Common symptoms of insomnia include:
• Fatigue
• Inability to focus or concentrate
• Poor memory
• Mood disturbance
• Daytime sleepiness
• Low motivation or energy
• Increased errors or accidents

Curing Insomnia Through Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation is a great, natural cure for insomnia. Although it still isn’t exactly mainstream, many people still practice it with hopes to stave off stress and related health problems.

Mindfulness meditation involves sitting comfortably, focusing on breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. 

Mindfulness improves regulation of stress and increases a sense of calm that results in a better ability to sleep.

A controlled clinical trial provides initial evidence of the efficacy of mindfulness training as a treatment for chronic insomnia. The trial revealed that people suffering from chronic insomnia who underwent a mindfulness-based stress reduction program had results equivalent to another group who used pharmaceutical sleep aids.

All participants fell asleep more quickly and they slept longer and even better. A portion of those taking pharmaceuticals throughout the study reported side effects, but the group trained in mindfulness did not. 

How To Practice Mindfulness For Insomnia

With practice, those suffering from insomnia due to stress overload will likely find marked improvement not only in their insomnia but also in their overall ability handle stress in daily life.

When practicing mindfulness meditation, you must know that thoughts may drift through your mind and that’s perfectly normal. There is no need to resist them or try to push them away. No need to be concerned with the nature of any particular thought.

But, you should take the attitude of an impartial observer to any thoughts that may arise. Aim to focus on your breathing. Thoughts may, at times, distract you from your practice. If this happens then gently bring your focus back to your breath.

Here is a method you can use to practice mindfulness meditation.

1. Find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed for 15 minutes. Dim the lights, sit down and be still. Allow yourself to settle comfortably, mentally and physically.

2. While sitting, keep the spine erect and take your time to make yourself as comfortable as possible in an upright seated position. Use any cushions or props to ensure maximum comfort. And, when you reach total comfort, close your eyes.

3. If you're feeling agitated, tense or stressed then tune into your body and notice any parts that may be tense. Take three deep breaths and with each exhalation have a sense of letting the tension melt out of those body parts.

4. Next, focus all of your attention on the tip of your nostrils. Enjoy the sensations of breath entering and leaving the body. Stay with this for 5 or so minutes.

5. Next, as you inhale and exhale, follow the flow of the breath as it moves through the nostrils, down the throat and into the lungs. Allow the mind to follow the passage of the breath as it enters and leaves your body.

6. When you’re ready to complete the practice take three deep abdominal breaths, then feel the weight of your body against the chair, recall the room your sitting in and the time of day. 

7. Continue deep breaths and your meditation for as long as you wish.

A good habit is to practice upon rising in the morning and/or just before retiring in the evening to start and end your day with calm and clarity. 

Insomnia can significantly affect quality of life. If you or someone you know suffers from insomnia and would like to try alternative ways to get a better night's sleep than consider meeting for free with one of Total Access Medical's concierge doctors.

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Topics: Wellness, Insomnia