Note: The following has been submitted as a guest post to A Beautiful Pause by Mary Lee, of Tuck.com. Opinions and comments provided in this guest post are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of A Beautiful Pause. 

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The effects of good sleep hygiene spread out into all aspects of your daily life. You’re more alert and responsive at work, your moods are more stable, and you’re more likely to make healthy food choices. 

Adults need a solid seven to eight hours of sleep each night. During that time, your body reduces its temperature and energy consumption, both of which are important for your body to rest, recharge, and repair itself. Your cardiovascular system also takes a break while you sleep with a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.

Better sleep can help depression, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, and many other conditions and illnesses. The body needs sleep. If sleep is eluding you, incorporating meditation into your daily routine might be just what you need to get that relaxation response and the rest you need.  

What To Do If You’re Feeling Too Stressed to Sleep

We all know the feeling of deep relaxation when the body starts to feel heavy and your breathing slows. Unfortunately, for many people, this ‘relaxation response’ doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. The relaxation response is characterized by a decrease in oxygen consumption with an increase in exhaled nitric oxide which in turn reduces psychological distress.

Mindfulness exercises, including mindfulness meditation, can the body and mind reach this response each day. Scientific evidence suggests that those who regularly take time to pause and practice mindfulness have fewer mood swings and reduced anti-inflammatory responses. Basically, taking some time to relax and rest reduces stress and the harmful effects that can come with prolonged stress and anxiety. 

Meditation can also help reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The key seems to be regular practice that focuses on relaxation. As these other conditions come under control, you are better able get to the rest you need.

Meditation techniques and practices vary a great deal in practice and in purpose. Not all of them are meant to help you relax. Some are intended to wake the mind and bring greater mental focus. That’s not exactly what you need when you’re ready to sleep. A few meditative relaxation techniques you might want to try while lying in bed include:

  • Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is exactly what it sounds like, taking deep breaths with the diaphragm. As you breathe, focus only on the movement of air in and out of your lungs and chest. Feel the expansion and let tension leave your body as you slowly exhale. 

  • Counting: You can count backward or forwards, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you relax the body and focus on the numbers. Picturing each number gives your mind something to focus on but doesn’t require mental strain. As you breathe slowly and regularly, you’ll soon find yourself drifting off to sleep. 

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Start at the head and tense the muscles of your head and neck for five seconds, then relax them. Repeat with each muscle group moving towards the toes. It may take a few times with each group before they start to feel heavy. 

Better sleep leads to better health and overall happiness. You can take control and help your body by developing habits that support a healthy lifestyle and promote the rest that lets your body function at its best. 

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Mary Lee is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She specializes in sleep's role in mental and physical health and wellness. Mary lives in Olympia, Washington and shares her full-sized bed with a very noisy cat.