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Mindful : October 2019
MEDITATION A Body Scan to Help You Sleep Explore this research-backed guided meditation to calm your body and improve your quality of sleep. mindful.org/ sleep-meditation m as well as sleep, says Harris. The point isn’t to fall asleep in the midst of your practice, but afterward when you return to bed. Another expert tip: Don’t rely on those ubiquitous sleep apps. “A lot of people use them as a sedative, but that’s not ideal,” says Harris. “You shouldn’t need to rely on anything to fall asleep—what happens if one day your phone is out of juice or the app doesn’t work?” When you need help drifting off in the wee hours, don’t try to force it. As every insomnia sufferer knows, the more you lie there trying to make yourself sleep, the more it won’t hap- pen. Notice your worries about being unable to sleep, your noisy mind, and visualize them floating by. The more you do this and accept that you cannot force sleep, the easier sleep will come. Finally, don’t watch the clock. Try- ing to calculate how many hours you’ve been awake, or how many more hours you have left to sleep, only worsens insomnia, notes Harris. Set an alarm for your wake time and don’t look at it until it goes off in the morning. ● toward yourself and let go of habitual rumination—including the worry that your life will fall apart if you don’t get a prescribed amount of sleep. DOS & DON’TS FOR QUALITY SLEEP If disturbed sleep is becoming your new normal, you need a reliable way out. Preferably a natural one, like mind- fulness, because sleeping pills can be “blunt instruments that do not produce naturalistic sleep,” says Walker. Maintaining a regular, daytime mindfulness meditation practice will help you sleep better and longer at night. However, it's best not to think ofitasapanaceaifyouwakeupat3 am. In this case, you might try a body scan while in bed, to relax any tension you may be holding in your body. And if sleep still doesn’t arrive, you can do a mindfulness practice, but get out of bed and do it elsewhere. Staying awake in bed for longer than about 20 minutes creates an associa- tion that the bed is for other activities UNEXPECTED BENEFIT? A surprising new finding about what happens in the brains of people who have chronic insomnia was revealed in a 2019 study by sleep expert Jason C. Ong, PhD, associate professor of neurology (Sleep Medicine), North- western Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine. Setting out to learn about the poten- tial effects of mindfulness meditation on brain activity while people sleep, Ong discovered that after participating in an eight-week mindfulness course, people experienced an increase in brain activity that is usually linked to disturbed sleep. But the participants reported that their sleep during the study had improved. “We are still trying to understand this paradoxical finding, but one inter- pretation is that mindfulness actually stimulates the brain during sleep without the anxiety or negative emo- tions that typically come with insom- nia,” Ong tells Mindful. Mindfulness can boost sleep quality, Ong continues, because it helps you feel kindness 26 mindful October 2019 mindful health