Sweet Dreams: 4 Mindfulness Practices for the Best Sleep Ever
The world is now more frantic, frenzied, and full-on than ever before. We still use the expression nine-to-five, but its meaning couldn’t be further from the truth. With the rise of the gig economy and the blue light radiating from our screens, these days we find ourselves working longer hours, getting less sleep, and never fully shutting off. The twenty-first century has given us life-changing innovations like Netflix and cauliflower pizza, but it has also created a society that never sleeps—constantly (a)Twitter with on-demand deliveries and 24-hour media cycles. “We live in an environment where we are constantly being bombarded by technology, social media, and people from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep,” says certified yoga instructor (and mindfulness expert) Devavani Conroy.
As our world grows increasingly plugged-in, disconnecting from the hustle and bustle becomes that much more essential. “If we are constantly worrying about the past or projecting in the future, we end up taking ourselves out of the present moment,” says Conroy. Getting present is a great way to shut off and wind down for the night. Without the worries of tomorrow, it will be a whole lot easier to doze off. Keep reading for Conroy’s top four tips for winding down at bedtime.
1. Power Down
The first step? Put down the phone and step away from the computer—your tired eyes and weary soul will thank you. After all, they do deserve a break. Blue light has been shown to disrupt circadian rhythm and interfere with the body’s own natural secretion of melatonin. What can you do if you’ve already set down the phone, but you’re still buzzing from a long day? Read on!
2. Equal Breathing
It happens to the best of us: we power down the tech, yet we still struggle to power down our minds. Next time you find yourself replaying the ins and outs of today while running through to-do lists for tomorrow, start to pay attention to your breath. Equal breathing—or Sama Vritti in Sanskrit—is a technique from pranayama, the art of yogic breathing. The basic premise of equal breathing is to regulate inhalation and exhalation, so that each lasts the same amount of time. “One of the most beautiful things about focusing on our breath is that in doing so, we quiet the mind. Finally, our mind has a simple task: breathe in and breathe out,” says Conroy.
How to do it: Breathe in for four counts. Hold. Breathe out for four counts. Hold. Repeat. Feel free to adjust the length of time for each, as long as the inhale and exhale remain equal.
3. Yoga Poses
After you’ve regulated your breath, consider practicing a couple of simple yoga poses to help your body wind down for rest. Conroy suggests beginning with Viparita Karani, or Legs Up the Wall pose. Try this one in bed with your legs up against the headboard or wall. “You can place a pillow under the hips to allow your pelvis to be elevated, letting the lymph and other fluids flow into your lower belly, boosting the blood circulation to your upper body and head.”
Next, try your hand at Supta Baddha Konasana, or Reclining Bound Angle pose. Lay on your back, bend your knees and touch the bottoms of your feet together, letting your knees open wide. “If you have tight groin muscles and don’t feel like you can relax, sliding a pillow under each knee and supporting the hip opening will allow you to soften into the pose, helping to lower blood pressure and slow down your heart rate,” says Conroy. Let your arms rest at your sides, on your belly, or stretch them over your head, using each hand to grab onto the opposite elbow. Conroy suggests staying in each pose for five minutes—and don’t forget to keep focusing on your breath throughout!
4. Simple Body Scan
Now that you’re all stretched out and your body has (hopefully) slowed down a bit, it’s time to meditate. Get in bed and lay flat on your back with your eyes closed. Begin by bringing your attention to your toes and feet. Conroy’s advice: picture yourself “breathing in through the nose all the way down to your feet and then breathing out from your feet all the way up to your nose. Repeat this a few times and then let your feet dissolve in your mind’s eye.” Slowly move the focus up to your lower legs, then knees, thighs, and so on, continuing to direct your breath through each body part up to the top of your head. Repeat this body scan until you’re fully relaxed. (You may even fall asleep midway!)
There you have it—four easy practices to help you wind down for bed. Not ready to commit to the whole routine? Start small. Establishing a screen cutoff time, doing a single yoga pose, or even just becoming aware of your breath can be a meaningful first step. The way Conroy sees it, a nightly ritual is like “a little bell informing your mind and body that it’s time to rest.”
Sleep well, LIV Fam!
Written by Cleo Gold