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Sleep & Mindfulness

Sleep and mindfulness are deeply intertwined. Sleep is essential for our physical, emotional, and cognitive health. We all know how important sleep is. Without it, we feel slow, sluggish, and unproductive. On the contrary, a restful night of sleep leaves us feeling refreshed and energised. But how does mindfulness fit into our sleep routine, and how can it enhance our sleep?

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Based on ancient principles from Buddhism and Taoism, mindfulness was introduced to the world of Western psychology by American professor John Kabat-Zinn in the 1990s.

When we practice mindfulness, we are more likely to be less reactive and more accepting of our experiences. We learn to observe our thoughts rather than engage in them. It is a way of training our minds to focus and steady our attention. Several scientific studies have shown that mindfulness practices improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia. So, the question is, where can we learn more and how do we practice mindfulness for better sleep?

Coming later in 2023, Lifeworks will be running a group program for people experiencing sleep difficulties. More information and details will be provided in the coming months.

Here are some resources and links for both clinicians and people with sleep difficulties.

For clinicians:

The research for evidence-based practice:

Read:

  • Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia by Jason C. Ong

For clinicians and people experiencing sleep difficulties:

Read:

  • Mindfulness for Insomnia: A Four-Week Guided Program to Relax Your Body, Calm Your Mind, and Get the Sleep You Need by Catherine Polan Orzech, William H. Moorcroft, Jason C. Ong.

Apps: When starting to practice mindfulness or conscious awareness, it can be helpful to have something to guide you.

One of the best ways to improve sleep quality using mindfulness is to focus on our breath. Mindful breathing practices are incredibly powerful in calming the body and mind, leading to a peaceful slumber. All you need to do is find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and breathe deeply. Focus your attention on the sensation of the breath moving in and out. If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought, and gently return your attention to your breath. It is effective in slowing down the racing thoughts, preventing them from spiralling out of control and keeping us awake. This is a skill just like learning to ride a bike so it takes practise and finding what works for each individual is important. Mindfulness practices are not one size fits all! Keep exploring.

Another simple way to incorporate mindfulness into your sleep routine is to practice gratitude before bed. Take a few minutes to reflect on three things that you are grateful for in your life. It can be anything, from small personal achievements to the people you love, to the roof over your head. Practising gratitude trains our minds to look for the positive and avoid ruminating on negative thoughts that can keep us up at night.

Practising mindfulness or doing mindful meditation can also be an effective tool for improving sleep quality and training the mind to be more present. Meditation can be done sitting, lying down or walking. The key is to focus your attention on a specific object, such as your breath, a mantra, or a candle flame. Meditation can quiet the mind, reduce stress, and promote relaxation, leading to a better night’s sleep.

Sleep and mindfulness are critical to our overall well-being. Mindfulness practices enable us to reduce stress, calm our minds, and focus our attention, leading to better sleep quality and reducing the likelihood of insomnia. Sometimes the timing is not always right when mindfulness is first introduced to us as a concept. It can be helpful to explore different strategies with support from an experienced practitioner to find what works for you.

If you would like to make a referral, please contact our friendly admin team on (08) 7082 0622 or at [email protected] between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Please visit our website to learn more about what we offer at Lifeworks OT. https://lifeworksot.com.au

Zeta Orrman is an Occupational Therapist at Lifeworks OT. With a keen interest in mental health, chronic pain, and the role of sleep in overall wellbeing, Zeta combines her professional knowledge and personal passion to help individuals navigate their daily occupations and lead meaningful lives. When she's not working, Zeta can be found surfing, travelling, flying aeroplanes, or volunteering at the Perth Astronomical Observatory.

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