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In older adults with moderate sleep disturbances, mindfulness meditation may improve sleep quality better than sleep hygiene education. In one study, the meditation group had fewer sleep disturbances and fewer symptoms of insomnia and depression and experienced less fatigue. Although further research is needed to see if the findings can be duplicated, mindfulness meditation appears to be useful.
Mindfulness meditation helps you calm your mind and body to cope better with illness, pain, and stress. It means paying attention to the moment at hand, without judging or interpreting it. For example, if it is raining, you can sit quietly and be mindful of the sound the rain makes on the roof or watch a single raindrop meandering down the windowpane. Alternatively, you could focus on each breath you take—the sensation of air flowing into and out of your body, and how it feels in your nostrils, shoulders, ribcage, and belly as they expand and relax.
Ideally, you should let everything else around you fall away and be attentive to that one thing—in theory, learning how to hone your concentration in this way means you can avoid dwelling on negative events in the past or worrying about the future. Thoughts like these can trigger anxiety that disturbs your sleep. Conversely, letting go of these thoughts can help you accept things as they are instead of becoming stressed and anxious about any lack of control you may feel over your life circumstances. Training yourself to choose how you respond to stressors can help give you back the sense of control you may have lost.
Three-Step Mindfulness Meditation Routine
- Step 1: Awareness. Focus your inner experience, noticing what’s happening in your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensation. Describe, acknowledge, identify—put experiences into words.
- Step 2: Redirect your attention. Focus on your breathing, following your breath all the way in and all the way out.
- Step 3: Expand your attention to your whole body and any sense of discomfort, tension, or resistance. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments of your day.
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