Acceptance is key

Many of us will at times suffer from poor sleep. And I find any insights on how to improve sleep are usually gratefully received.

There is a lot of advice available on how to replace thoughts and behaviours that are keeping us awake with thoughts and behaviours that increase the chance of sleeping. It’s advice based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT for short.

But I was struck with a new approach, described as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT for short. Here the focus is on accepting the thoughts, feelings and sensations that go with lying awake. Rather than ‘battling’ against our wakefulness, instead we simply accept it as it is. ‘Letting go’ of the struggle to get to sleep can help restore the natural biological process.

It’s actually a practice at the heart of mindfulness: accepting things as they are. And there are rich rewards as we – often courageously – do this.

This is Mindful Monday on 17 May 2021.

Sleep

3, 4, 5 z z z

Drifting off to sleep sometimes happens almost without us even specifically noticing it. Other times it doesn’t happen as we expect.

Getting to sleep can become a challenge – and we may find ourselves going into battle preparing a battle chest of sleep aids, from natural remedies to prescribed medications.

Our breath is always with us. It is second nature. Sometimes so much so that we fail to notice it!

It pays to notice our breath – and failing to drift off to sleep it one of those time it pays.

Next time this happens to you – or just to practice it for those times it might! – here’s a useful exercise:

  1. You’re already in bed where you hope to pass a restful night. Get yourself comfortable.
  2. Inhale (breathe in) as you tense muscles in your body (focusing on squeezing your hands into fists will help you to identify how to do this) and then exhale (breathe out) to relax all your muscles.
  3. Repeat inhaling – tense muscles; exhaling – relax muscles a few times.
  4. Ensure your teeth are not clenched by making space between your top and bottom teeth and putting the tip of your tongue on the hard palate at the top of your mouth.
  5. Now focus on your breathing:
    3: breathe in through your nose for a count of 3
    4: hold the breath for a count of 4
    5: breathe out through youth mouth for a count of 5
  6. Repeat until you drift off.

There are plenty of variants on a bedtime breathing practice. This one is attributed to Dr Ben Marshall who is a respiratory consultant at the University Hospital Southampton.

If you don’t drift off, don’t panic. Being stressed about not sleeping is truly a road to nowhere. Notice your breathe. Know that when you absolutely need it, sleep will happen. Breath.

Sleep well – and if you don’t, be well even in the midst – you are still breathing!

This is Mindful Monday on 8 June 2020.

Join a free mindfulness session next Monday at 10.30 am on zoom. Email hello@cheltenhamessence.org for further details.