How To Lie Down and Begin to Relax Part 2: Before Sleeping

Getting off to sleep: what works for you?

It’s an interesting topic because dropping off to sleep can affect many of us. Some people find it really easy; others have a little routine to help; others find this aspect of life difficult.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at the meditation side of this while you are lying in bed preparing to drop off.

Meditations before sleep

Do a short body scan

OK, to be honest, this isn't one I do while lying in bed but I've heard many people do, and it can help.

Personally, I prefer to do some sitting meditation - let my mind gently settle with my body - put in a light amount of energy to focus on say the breath or my posture – and - then not do too much. I then carry this attitude over to laying down to sleep.

That's my approach and you'll have to experiment to find your own.

To help here are a couple of guided meditation you might find useful once you are snuggled up in bed:

On the other hand, you might like to try a body scan; so here is one to have a go at:

The key to the body scan before sleeping is not to put too much energy in; make a gentle steady effort - that is enough.

Don't try too hard to relax

When lying down and applying mindfulness to help you relax: don't try too hard.

This sounds a bit obvious but for a quite a few years I made the mistake of trying too hard with meditation, putting in a great deal of energy to focus. It was a car crash approach, that is all I can say, and it took an old monk to point out to me, “make a gentle effort”, before I realised I'd been approaching mindfulness with a bit too much gusto.

In meditation it is better to be open; gentle; don't expect a perfect mind; accept the mind wanders; notice but don't put pressure on yourself, just say "oh well it is like this". You might find this loose approach relaxes your attitude towards meditation and you might find you drift off to sleep with ease as a result.

However, I do need to put in a clause here: remember to make some effort to concentrate on your body, on your breath, or on your posture.

It is not about making no effort as that is just drifting about aimlessly letting the stories of the mind take over!

Accepting challenging emotions

If you have gone through the above but still have some challenging emotions, the simple next step is:

Accept them.

This can be powerful if the right approach is taken. This is a big subject so I'm going to do a follow-up blog on this one, but, for now, some basic principles... 

Firstly, give your self a sense of space by quietly applying mindfulness to your body and opening up to the present moment. I've done a nice meditation on this, have a listen and have a go...

Opening up meditation

The idea is to give your mind some space to allow difficult emotions to surface and release. This process can take a long time; years even but is well worth it. One allows difficult emotions to surface, like fear or anxiety, be there and then one lets them settle out into the space and quietness of meditation.

Notice I used "let them settle out" instead of "let them go". This is because letting go can easily get confused with “chuck away” or “quickly suppress” so I like to use the phrase "let them settle out".

This is a nice gentle way to handle difficult emotions, and neither feeds into them nor suppresses them; this brings me to the next subject: dealing with pain mindfully.

Managing Pain Mindfully

This is another big topic, and an area I’ve had some dealings with, but not a specialist in. I remember I did some guidance with a gentleman who had to live with terrible pain. The advice I gave was more common sense than anything else.

The advice was that he should try some pretty standard meditation techniques to look at his pains within this context, but not to overdo it with the awareness of his pain. He also planned to do a retreat, so I recommended that he used a comfortable bed and took time out from sitting meditation to relax in a comfortable chair.

Basically, I advised him to work with his body.

Like I said, I’m not an expert in this field but I can offer some reflections and I've done a blog post all about this so take a look if you wish:

Reflections on managing pain mindfully

You are of course welcome to use some of my meditation tips, and they may prove useful especially if you are having difficulty sleeping too.

Mindfully massaging your way out of sleepless periods

I’m going to cover this in a separate blog because of a few years back I had a direct experience with this and would like to share this with you. This will follow on from this blog at a later date and will be called:

Dealing with insomnia mindfully

I hope you found the mindfulness of laying down and starting to relax, especially the sleep side of it, a useful topic. I have to admit, when I sat down to write about it I thought I could cover it in a blog or two only to find out that it is a big topic with many offshoots, but I hope they have been reflective good reading.

Photo by Maeghan Smulders

What are your experiences?

What are your experiences with using mindfulness to relax while lying down and preparing for sleep?

Here are a few I’ve had via social media...

Darren Pugh LinkedinA twice-daily meditation practice of just twenty mins is a fab way to improve the quality and likelihood of a good night's sleep.. :)

Cara Brookins‏ @cmbrookins 
I'm a bit of an over-scheduler. My mindful sleep habit is to accept w/a smile that I did all I could today & pause my to-do list to recharge

Irina Bussa FB Paying attention to their breath with eyes closed lying on the back one palm on the lower belly, one on the upper one.

Andrea G G+ I also love the meditation society of Australia... meditation.org.au - Free online meditation - learn to meditate they have some nice guided imagery meditations I like to fall asleep too, and some good meditation music too...

Dr Neil Hayes
I think this one is the most challenging of the four postures because it is the one that is also associated with sleep. Learning to distinguish promptly between a bright but restful mind, and a mind that is nodding off is a skill to be acquired. Often, people choose to apply some meditative technique to aid letting go of thought before sleep. My tip is not to use mindfulness of the breath when lying down, to avoid this vital meditative technique becoming associated with sleep. I prefer to take my concentration down to my feet, as far from my mind as possible, and then allow myself to fall asleep.

A Mindful Life, LA @AMindfulLifeLAThe most commonly used Mindfulness practice for sleep is the Body Scan. Here is a link: http://marc.ucla.edu/mpeg/Body-Scan-for-Sleep.mp3 … Connection to next blog

That wraps up the four posture series nicely. Here are links to the other ones if you missed them:

1. How to Stand and Be More Present
2. How to Walk and Better Settle Thoughts
3. How to Sit and Start to Calm
4. How to Lie Down and Begin to Relax

Establish Mindfulness: image
About Paul
Paul has been practising mindfulness since 1997, but still has a "beginner's mind" approach to meditation. He is the author of the eBook series The Silence Between the Noise and primary contributor to the Establish Mindfulness online meditation center.