Insomnia is closely linked to anxiety. The more sleep-deprived you are, the more anxious you’ll be, and the harder it’ll be for you to get some sleep.
There are studies that delve deeper into the complexities of how insomnia and anxiety affect each other, but in a nutshell: each is both a cause and an effect of the other. Anxiety results in insomnia and vice versa.
The good news is that because of this relationship, you can treat your anxiety with the possibility of treating your insomnia. A simple way to do this is through the ancient practice of meditation.
Meditation 101: Focus
Humans have been meditating for thousands of years, and it all boils down to a single purpose: focusing on the present moment. It may sound mundane, but the focus is absolutely adamant to even the most basic tasks that we do each day.
It’s even more important for tasks that require mental strength, like quelling anxiety. The ability to focus is both a requirement and an effect of meditation. It takes your focus and magnifies it to a potential peak – a state of mental sharpness and physiological calmness.
It is then up to you to use your magnified focus for whatever purpose. This is how meditation can be a tool for getting in touch with the spirit world. It’s also why some professional archers meditate before and during competition.
In this state, you can do nearly anything you set your mind to – whether it’s communing with spirits, shooting bows with deadly precision, or relaxing your mind and body the point of slumber.
Proper Posture and Breathing
It’s easier to find your focus and breathe properly when you have the proper posture. If you’re meditating to sleep, the proper posture is simply any comfortable lying-down position that allows you to breathe normally, like lying on your back in bed.
You can get more comfortable by putting pillows under your knees and a thin, rolled-up blanket under your lower back, providing support to your pelvic and back muscles. This position can be extremely relaxing.
Breathing properly is a matter of breathing with your abdomen. Focus on breathing in slowly through the nose as you widen your throat, and then using your stomach to push that air out as slowly as it came in. Breathe like this as consistently as you can.
Every time you lose focus, don’t worry – just come back to the proper breathing and steady your mind. You’re already one step to finding and keeping your focus.
Mental Point of Focus
To help you hold onto your focus, you can use other devices apart from proper breathing. This is where mantras and meditation chants come in. By using repeated words, phrases, or sounds, you can better keep your mind focused in the present moment.
This mental point of focus can be as simple as repeated chants of ‘ohm’, a traditional meditation aid that’s been used for centuries. It can also be a familiar phrase that you can relate to, like ‘relaxation is my goal, sleep is my reward’.
As long as you can repeat it and keep coming back to it while increasing your focus and relaxation, it will work. You don’t even need to verbally say it. You can just say it in your head, in time with your breathing.
You can even make your mind do a bit of heavy lifting by using an imagined image or activity as a mental point of focus. Close your eyes and see yourself in a place or situation that brings you absolute calm.
It can be a favorite childhood beach, a mountaintop campsite that you found almost impossible to leave, or even a place from your favorite work of fiction. It can be anything – so long as it makes you relaxed and comfortable. Stay in this place and you can stay calm and focused.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Don’t just meditate before you go to sleep. Anxiety is not so easily brushed aside. Practicing meditation throughout the day will not only allow you to better control your anxiety, it also trains you to find your focus easier.
In order to avoid accidentally sleeping from meditating during the day, you can do it sitting or standing up.
As long as you’re in a safe or comfortable location, you can meditate – you can just do it for 10 to 20 minutes each day. Apart from making it easier for you to meditate to sleep, meditating during the day can also quell work-related stress and anxiety, giving you some room to breathe and be more effective throughout the workday.
This will also result in less overall stress and anxiety, allowing you to be better relaxed whenever you try to fall asleep.