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March Un-Madness- Week Two - It's 2 am, and Yet Again, I am Wide Awake! Mindful Sleep

aging mindfulness sleep Mar 16, 2020

In today's episode, we will explore Mindful Sleep. As we age, our sleep patterns change, and those changes can be downright unpleasant. Even if you're a young buck who sleeps poorly, this episode is for you too! There are a few ways to look at these exhausting annoyances and some mindful methods to improve them. We know meditation can improve sleep, but what happens as we age and how can our meditation practice can help us at 2 am when we were staring at the ceiling trying to solve world peace and figure out if the light really does go out in our refrigerator when we close the door.

Sleep is a critical part of our health. Please don't say, "oh well, I am just getting older. I will just nap more." NO, NO, NO, life is too short to sleep through, and during those waking hours, you want to feel like a spring chicken.

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Hey There, Alexa Z here, and it is week 2 of March Un-Madness!  Please remember, as we talk about how fantastic meditation and mindfulness is, if you need help learning and sticking to these practices, I am always here to help. I have a class launching in April. If you are interested, go to www.alexazmeditates.com/help, and I will let you know all about it. Now, let's dig right into the topic of sleep. I will split into three pieces.

  1. What meditation does for sleep.
  2. What happens to our sleep as we age?
  3. What can you do to set yourself up for a better night's rest before, during, and after sleep?

Yes, this means you need to listen until the end to get the tips to use tonight. Sorry, but we must go through one and two to understand three.  Don't worry; the podcast is short.

Meditation and Sleep

In episode 6, I talked about all the reasons why sleep is essential and how sleep is the number one way to reduce stress (go ahead back and give it a listen if you missed it). As a quick review, sleep is fantastic, but no one seems to get the right amount and quality of sleep to wash out all the stress, then stress begins to build up. Exercise is fantastic, but it only gets rid of current stress, it tends not to attack all of the past stresses. Meditation, on the other hand, does two amazing things (well many but here are the top ones for today,) it helps get rid of current AND past stress and the practice builds your sleep muscles.

In the perfect world, we would glide through non REM, and REM brain wave sleep like this: Beta – awake and aware, Alpha – gentle bridge to sleep, Theta going deeper into dreamy land and Delta the most restorative waves of all. We need that gentle cycle about every 90 minutes, but that isn't always the case, hence why sometimes you sleep eight hours and wake up still tired!

The Alpha waves are very low in today's crazy world, and meditation helps to strengthen them! 

Meditation mimics good sleep. We meditate our way through Beta, Alpha, and Theta, and if that isn't cool enough, try Yoga Nidra and get down into those Delta waves (listen to episode 8 on Nidra or go to my website and try the free one on the home page.)

What Happens as We Age?

Ok, I am the queen of simple, so let's see if I can stay the queen. What most of us find is that as we get older:

  • Sleep patterns change.
  • It is harder to fall asleep.
  • You have to pee more.
  • Your joints hurt.
  • Caffeine can have more of an effect on you.
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Reflux
  • And other body issues or illnesses.
  • You wake up more often because you spend less time in a deep sleep.
  • Your neurological receptors begin to weaken
  • These receptors connect with your sleep chemicals, making it harder for your brain to figure out when you are tired and when you are supposed to be awake.

Now at this point, you are probably getting depressed and tired and want to take a nap. But wait, even naps don't feel as good anymore. Plus, the more you nap, the harder it is to get to sleep at night. It becomes a vicious circle.

Another reminder: Meditation helps your health, your brain waves, your pain tolerance, your immune system, your circadian rhythms, etc.

Using Mindfulness to Get You to Sleep

(or perhaps back to sleep!)

As you continue your Meditation practice and keep building those strong brain muscles, shifting around grey and white matter in your brain, lowering your stress levels, etc.  What kind of mindfulness can you practice starting tonight at two or three am?

  • First, start with a better pre-sleep routine. From figuring out your natural sleep cycle to uncluttering your bedroom, to changing up your activities and screen time. You can get a list from my sleep episode freebie at www.alexazmeditates.com/sleep which also includes a meditation to help you get to sleep
  • Before bed, take a moment to close the day down with an evening ritual – write everything down you want to do the next day and put it away!
  • Get in bed and be mindful of yourself and your bed. Use all of your senses, the feel of the sheets against your skin, the pillow under your head, the smells of the room, the little sounds near and far that are just part of the environment, the sensations of the body from the inside out. Lie in stillness and gratitude and leave the thinking mind and enter the feeling mind.
  • Move to the attention of your breath. Maybe the belly is ever so slightly moving the covers. Or perhaps a hand or small pillow on your stomach can help you feel the movement.
  • Instead of counting sheep, gently count your breath.
  • Body Scan your way from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Every so slowly, no labeling, just noticing.
  • As thoughts drift in, we know they will, observe them without labeling them and gently return to your breath. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, I return to a childhood prayer, and I say it silently and ever so slowly to myself a few words at a time. Say two to three words, then stop and take a breath, now the next words and so forth.
  • Use your mindfulness to notice how human you are, how caught up you can become, then without judgment permit yourself to think about it later.

Have compassion for yourself, know that you are reasonable, and the more you leave the stress of being awake behind, the more you are offering yourself rest even if you are not sound asleep.

So many ways to be mindful. My kindness to myself is to turn on a Nidra first thing in the morning. It helps give me more rest and goes back to helping my brain waves.

If this is all fun and exciting, but you need some help learning meditation and mindful practices, you need a bit of personal handholding, maybe some group coaching and a dose of accountability, then go to alexazmeditates.com/help. The next class begins in April.

Now go forth and approach tonight's sleep with a mindful attitude. Go gently and with compassion for yourself. Our age is not a detriment, we earned these years, and we can make them the best they can be. Still, first, we need to be present enough to notice things that are off and then do our best to insert nourishing practices into our life like meditation, proper nutrition, exercise, and surround ourselves with loving people.

We are all in this crazy world together. Let's take it in stride. Less napping more meditation!

Peace out Tators. Next week let's talk about mindfully saying NO and loving the outcome.

Resources

Interested in learning to Meditate in April?

Click here to find out more

Want to get your hands on the Sleep Freebie?

Click here for a free checklist on better sleep

 

 

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