Breathing and meditation techniques

Help for better sleep
Shows girl meditating with head in flowers tips to help you sleep

Being able to fully relax and clear your mind before bed is essential for a good night’s sleep.

However, this is easier said than done considering that our lives are so busy and that we probably have a lot of things to think about. Being unable to quieten your mind can mean that it takes a long time to drift off and you can lose minutes, if not hours, of precious sleep time.

The human brain is amazingly complex and can be difficult to switch off, and things that you’ve managed to avoid thinking about during the day will all fight for your attention once you lay down in bed.

A great way to learn to calm your mind is to start practising some simple meditation techniques. Many people still think that you need special training to be able to meditate, or to visit a quiet mountain top or remote retreat to find some zen. But meditation is accessible to everybody, and you can begin tonight – no equipment or lessons required.

Try some of our simple techniques below before bed to help you relax, unwind and wake up more refreshed.

Did you ever count sheep as a child? It’s a traditional cure for not being able to sleep which can be used effectively as an adult too – but you don’t have to picture sheep jumping over a gate. Choose something that calms you like counting sail boats passing by you on the ocean, or butterflies flying past.

A technique that can also be helpful is to pretend that you are watching a tennis match – follow the ball from player to player with your eyes closed and the rhythmic movement and visualisation can help relax your eye muscles and mind.

If you find it hard to visualise you can simply try counting backwards from 100 – slowly and with deep breaths, imagining yourself becoming more and more sleepy as you get closer to one. If it doesn’t work first time count back up to 100 then back again.

Just like counting sheep, being able to visualise something can be incredibly useful when it comes to relaxing your mind and body.

You can imagine yourself walking down a long corridor becoming more and more relaxed as you approach the end – where there is a door. Slowly walk through the door and find yourself in a restful place – such as floating on a lilo in the ocean gently rising and falling with the waves. Or sitting in the shade underneath a tree in a peaceful meadow listening to the sound of the birds.

Find somewhere in your mind that brings you peace and enjoy the sensation of being there. When outside thoughts come into your head just acknowledge them and let them pass by. Bring your thoughts back to your surroundings, what you can see, feel and hear in your calm place.

This one might sound obvious, but very often we are not breathing properly for rest and relaxation. When we are caught up in worries or busy lives we can have a tendency to take shallow breaths high in the chest – which doesn’t result in the deep breathing needed for calm and relaxation.

Focus on breathing in deeply through your nose for a count of three, pulling the air right down to the bottom of your lungs. Hold for three then release slowly for three. You can place your hands on your belly to feel it rise and fall with your breath to make sure you are breathing deeply enough. Taking full, deep breaths will help calm your body and mind, which can help you fall asleep more easily.

There are many more meditation techniques for bedtime routines, keep trying until you find the one that is right for you. You can also find many guided relaxations that you can listen to before bed which will help you with breathing and visualisation if you find it hard to master it by yourself.

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