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Sleep problems: Can meditation work?

Sleep problems: Can meditation work?

Have you got sleep problems?

Sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. Sleep rests your body and rejuvenates you, enabling you to tackle each new day.  It is during sleep that your body does all its ‘housekeeping’ and replenishes the stock and gets rid of the waste.

During your sleep and your dreams, your brain organises the sensory input you have absorbed during the day, separating the useful information from the information that you don’t need to retain.  Emotional issues and problems are then dreamed out through story and metaphor, in an attempt to finding resolution in your emotional brain.

When you sleep you go through different sleep cycles.

The first stage lasts about 10 minutes where the brain introduces Theta waves. This is a stage between normal waking and sleep, and often if you wake a person in this cycle they will find it hard to report being asleep. During the second stage of sleep, the brain begins to produce bursts of rapid, rhythmic brain wave activity known as sleep spindles.  This lasts for around 20 minutes, during which the heart rate begins to slow and temperature begins to decrease.

In the third stage of sleep, Delta waves begin to emerge, which are deep slow brain waves. This is the transitional stage between light and deep sleep. The next stage is a deep sleep categorised by slow and deep Delta brain-waves, which lasts for approx. 30 minutes. Sleep walking and other sleep phenomenon usually occur at the end of this stage.

The final stage is known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. REM sleep is characterised by eye movement, increased respiration rate, and increased brain activity. REM sleep typically occurs 90 minutes after falling asleep.

After REM sleep, the body goes back through the stages and then into REM sleep again. This sleep cycle usually occurs 4-5 times throughout the night until you wake up again in the morning.  When in REM we are in paradoxical sleep and are as ‘awake’ and conscious as we are through the day.

If you are sleep deprived your body will often go into REM straight away, meaning that you don’t get the deep sleep that you need to function well and wake up still feeling exhausted.

How well do you sleep?

One of the reasons that people struggle with sleep is an over active mind chattering away to them, making it more of a challenge to switch off.

The key to a good night’s sleep is calming and quietening the mind and one of the best known ways to do this is meditation.  Meditation is no longer reserved for monks in monasteries or Jesus sandal loving hippes.  

This ancient practice is an excellent way to quieten the mind and help you pull your mind away from concerns about the past or future and focus on the present moment. During meditation, the pulse rate slows, blood pressure falls, blood supply to the arms and legs increases, levels of stress hormones drop, and brain waves resemble a state of relaxation found in the early stages of sleep.

Even if you already get a good night’s sleep, putting yourself in the right state of mind every night by practicing meditation ensures that you can get an optimal sleeping pattern and wake up every morning feeling refreshed and alert.

There is lots of information on the internet for how to meditate.  Dispel the myth that you have to meditate for hours and simply start with five minutes each night.  If you feel you can do a little more, then great, if not, then slowly build it up each night.  For anyone who has tried to control their racing thoughts meditation can feel a little alien at first, but as with anything, practice makes perfect.

Still struggling with sleep problems?

If you find you are still unable to get to sleep, or remain asleep the whole night due to ruminating on thoughts and feeling worried, then you may need a helping hand to calm the mind and allow you to sleep peacefully again.  Don’t suffer from bed time blues book a session today.

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