If you’ve ever woken up at 3:00 am and couldn’t fall back to sleep, raise your hand.
Welcome to the 3 o’clock club – the place where to-do lists race through your mind like theDaytona 500 and worry morphs into a vision of the future wrought with all-out catastrophe.
And not just because of your tossing and turning, or checking the clock to count how many potential sleep hours remain…
The amount (and quality) of sleep you get each night not only impacts the following day, but your health and well-being over all.
Think of sleep as a reset button for your body and a level-up button for your brain. It’s when all of your body's systems repair themselves while your brain runs the data patterns of theday, flushing out the irrelevant bits and synthesizing anything you've learned.
But you know this. And knowing it, only makes it harder to fall back to sleep.
A mindfulness practice will REALLY help.
Mindfulness is all about directing your thoughts back to the present moment. The more often you do it – the more often you notice that you’re in the past or future and choose to come back to the present – the better you get at it.
Just like doing bicep curls, you’ll strengthen the mental muscle it takes to make the shift. So, at 3:00 am when your brain is spiraling out of control and you want to drift back into sleep, you will have built the capacity to leave off catastrophizing and fall asleep.
Use mindfulness to improve your sleep.
1. Start a daily mindfulness practice.
Use this simple 60-second strategy. I recommend attaching it to something you already do about 10 times a day (like check your social media or browse the web). Remember, it’s like a bicep curl – the more often you do it, the stronger you get.
2. Choose an evidence anchor.
Think about something that you worried about over and over again in the middle of the night that turned out to be far less important, unsolvable, or critical than it seemed at 3:00 am. If you can come up with one that was downright ridiculous, all the better. Create a light, peaceful mental image that represents the ease of the situation in the light of day.
The goal here is not to say that everything is always hunky dory, but to remind your brain that nothing actually gets solved in the middle of the night and whatever the worry, it’s most certainly a distorted view of it.
The next time you’re awake in the middle of the night, take a moment to focus on your breath, then gently direct your thinking to your evidence anchor image.
Each time your thoughts wander back to the dark place, just repeat the redirect – focus on your breath and direct your thinking to your evidence anchor image.
Do this until you fall asleep.
Seem too simple to work? The magic is in step number 1 – the more often you consciously direct your thinking to the present moment during the day, the easier it will be to do it at night.