Are you dealing with sleepless nights?
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,
“Studies show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.”
The root cause of most sleep disturbances is chronic stress. Hence, reducing your stress level with a healthy diet, regular exercise and devoting time to self-care and relaxation helps immensely. Of course, a glass of wine, sleeping pills or other sleep-inducing substances can work faster and require less effort. But, those are short-term solutions that provide lower-quality sleep.
If you have trouble falling asleep or tend to wake up in the middle of the night, avoid tossing and turn with frustration or getting up and looking at a screen, which will make it much more difficult to fall asleep after stimulating the eyes and brain with blue light and digital information.
Instead, allow yourself to relax, do some yoga or meditate. Even if you can’t sleep, going into a state of deep relaxation will be beneficial for your body’s ability to rejuvenate and recuperate. With that said, here are three visualization techniques you can try to help you fall back into a serene and rejuvenating sleep.
1. Breathe in the Night Sky
Our breath is with us from the moment of birth until the moment of death. It is the one bodily function that we can control. Deep breathing is calming. Breath awareness is the foundation for many effective meditation techniques— as the breath is the one reference point that we can almost always return to, no matter your circumstances (except being submerged underwater).
Starting from one hundred, count down with each breath. Let your breath be natural and don’t try to manipulate it. There’s a good chance that you’ll fall asleep or induce deep relaxation before you get to zero. If you lose track, start back at one hundred. Alternatively, start from one, counting up with each breath.
Now here’s the visualization part.
- On the inhale, imagine your body filling with a vast darkness, the type of darkness outside your bed and house, the night sky.
- Visualize that you’re breathing in the entire night sky, pitch black with shining stars.
- Let your mind be vast and open just as the sky.
- Imagine that those tiny stars that you have inhaled, move around your entire body to dissolve all the tense spots present in your body.
- Last but least when exhaling, visualize smoke coming out through your nostrils, like a sleeping dragon, view the smoke as remnants of the tensions leaving you.
- Feel yourself completely relaxed, and allow yourself to doze off.
Body scanning and progressive muscle relaxation is a powerful way of inducing deep relaxation in the body and mind. Here we’ve combined body scanning with a nice visualization:
- Lie on your back, scanning the body and relaxing all the muscles from head to toe. Let the weight and energy of your physical being press down into the bed.
- Starting with the right big toe, bring your awareness to each toe one at a time, to the ball of the foot and heel. Draw your attention to the ankle, shin, calf, knee, thigh, gluts, hips—then move back down the left leg with equal precision.
- Bring your awareness to the lower abdomen, upper abdomen, diaphragm, left side of the chest, middle of the chest, right side of the chest. Invite your attention to the right shoulder, right bicep, tricep, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand, each finger and thumb.
- Repeat on the left arm. Relax the throat, back of the neck, jaw, chin, lips, tongue, cheeks, nose, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, forehead, scalp, crown of the head.
- Relax every part, letting go of all tension, feeling your body melt into the ground. Imagine your body is as light as a fluffy white cloud floating in the sky. Then, visualize your body as heavy as a boulder grounded in the earth.
- Visualize the tension or energy that you no longer need leaving your physical body. See it seeping out, seeping down into the Earth, where it can serve as compost for new growth, fresh beginnings and abundant opportunities that tomorrow will inevitably bring you.
3. The Bench at the Train Station
Gosh we all know that our minds and it’s incessant activities is more than we can handle sometimes. While some thoughts are pleasant and agreeable, other thoughts are just no-good noise circulating in your mind. In this visualization, we’re going to handle the situation!
- Visualize sitting on a bench at a train station, just watching the trains arrive and depart.
- Our pure awareness is the bench at the station.
- All the mental activities — the myriad thoughts, feelings, sensations, ideas, memories, plans and so forth are the trains.
- Sooner or later, our mindfulness will lapse and we will get on one of those trains. We will be lost in thought, having completely forgotten about our meditation.
- However, the moment you realize that you are on the train, you can magically transport yourself back to the station, back to the serene bench.
- Keep watching without judgment, with an open mind and an open heart.
Quality sleep is fundamental to a healthy, happy and productive life. These and other meditation techniques can help improve our sleep. Meditating consistently, as in most days for at least 20 to 30 minutes, can make a huge difference in our sleep quality. Many people shift from needing eight or nine hours to only requiring four to six hours of sleep at night in order to feel energized and alert during the day. This is just one of the cornucopia of benefits offered by a devoted meditation practice.