In this 24/7 world we live in where we are constantly being bombarded by messages from social media, it is becoming more and more important to switch off and zone out.
While sleep is absolutely essential, we can also practice meditation as part of our daily routine to help get into a clear and focused mind to prepare for the day ahead.
Practiced since antiquity in numerous religious traditions and beliefs, meditation has become a popular way of dealing with the stressors of modern life. It is a way to disconnect from our surroundings and turn the focus inward to our thoughts and feelings, allowing us to reconnect with ourselves.
While some of the benefits include reducing stress, controlling anxiety and decreasing blood pressure, it can also improve sleep by allowing your mind to slow down and encourage a calmer, more relaxed state.
How to meditate
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Close your eyes. An eye mask can encourage deeper relaxation.
- Make no effort to control your breathing; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on breathing and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
- Use an app like Headspace to guide you through the meditation if you find focusing on your breath difficult at the start.
We live in a time finite world obsessed with productivity and connectivity. The growing to-do list has taken over from the basic and wholesome need for rest and recovery.
Just as important as other aspects of health, sleep often falls down the list of priorities.
Striking the balance between energy and recovery is extremely uncommon for a lot of people in this hectic world.
Many people give in to demands of high performance and deprive themselves of sleep with hopes to extend their productivity, even if it puts their health at risk.
Sleep is often seen as a time when the body is inactive. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Sleep is not a lifestyle choice; it is an active, essential and involuntary process, and without it we cannot function effectively.
During sleep, the brain can process information, consolidate memory, and enable us to learn and function effectively during the day. Sleep benefits our bodies and minds in so many positive ways, from repairing muscle to keeping a health/weight and lowering stress levels.
While we sleep, our brain is not only strengthening memories, but it is also reorganizing them, picking out the emotional details and helping us produce new insights and creative ideas.
A lack of sleep, therefore, affects our ability to use language, sustain attention, understand and summarize information. If our sleep is compromised, so is our performance, mood, and interpersonal relationships.
Official recommendations are that adults need between seven and nine hours sleep per day to function at their optimum level.
- Avoid bright light in the evening i.e. smartphones, tablets and TV.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and spicy food in the evening.
- Wind down – meditate for a few minutes to get into sleep mode.
- Stick to a sleep schedule to regulate the body clock.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual like reading or having a bath.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid napping during the day.
- Exercise daily – vigorous is best but not immediately before bedtime.
- Evaluate your room to remove noises and lights, or use earplugs and an eye mask.
- Invest in a good mattress and pillows.