You work hard through the day. You make a long commute to work. You toil hard in your workplace to complete assignments to specs, meet deadlines, respond to customers, and maintain profit margins. You juggle home and career. In between running errands, you make time to attend your kid’s soccer match or take her to the ballet class. You are tired at the end of the day, and all you want to do is flop down on the bed and go off to sleep. After all, you need to be on top of your game for the next day.
Unfortunately, sleep does not come.
You toss and turn, count sheep, and stare at the ceiling. But sleep eludes you. The few hours of sleep you manage are marred by bad dreams that jolt you awake frequently and make you break into a sweat.
You wonder how you can get a night of restful sleep.
The Problem of Not Getting a Night of Restful Sleep
Feeling tired, grumpy, and drowsy the next day are not the only downsides of having a fitful night’s sleep. According to the American Sleep Association, inadequate sleep causes people to nod off at work and worse, behind the wheel. Chronic sleeplessness has been known to cause obesity. Sleep deprivation leads to medical errors that cause 100,000 deaths every year in hospitals across the U.S.
Not having a restful night’s sleep hinders cognitive performance. Most among us have foggy brains after spending a sleepless night.
But here’s the good news. These negative effects are temporary and unless you are suffering from an underlying medical condition, your sleep woes can be resolved easily. That’s because for most of us, our sleeplessness stems from poor sleeping habits (read about them here) and stressing too much about not being able to sleep.
You Won’t Fall Asleep by “Trying” to Sleep
Yes, you read right. You can’t fall asleep by “trying.” That’s because going off to sleep is not just you snapping your eyelids shut and drifting into oblivion within seconds. Going off to sleep involves easing into a state of physical and mental relaxation first. You can’t fall asleep while you are climbing the stairs or have a worry gnawing at the back of your mind.
When you are “trying,” you are making a conscious effort. When you consciously strive to do something, you expect to achieve some specific outcome. This is when mental stress kicks in. You fret over results or their lack thereof. You worry if you are doing everything okay. You lie in bed and wonder when you will nod off to sleep. You are irritated and worry how you will get through the next day on so little sleep. You are far from being relaxed and calm. You are hardly in a state that will bring on sleep.
To bring on a state of relaxation that will induce sleep, you’ll want to stop “trying” to go to sleep and let go off the stress and agitation of “trying” to sleep. You can cultivate a letting-go mindset.
The Letting-go Mindset
First, a disclaimer, because the moniker might confuse you.
Letting go is not acceptance of defeat. Rather, it is a calm and stoic acceptance that events tend to unfold the way they are supposed to, and you cannot control everything that happens to you.
A letting-go attitude is being okay with whatever happens to you and around you. You don’t deny. You don’t resist. You just accept, and move on.
How Meditation Helps You Cultivate the Letting-go Mindset
A letting-go attitude is a way of the mind. It is the organizing principle that your mind applies to run your life, influence your decisions and actions, and shape your behavior and responses. So if you want to adopt this mindset and make it a part of your workings, you have to work on your mind.
Meditation helps you cultivate a letting-go mindset. Here’s how:
- By creating a pause and a quiet mental space for you to slow down and take a look at your thoughts and feelings. Holding on (mentally) to a fear, a nagging doubt, or a creeping anxiety only magnifies the emotion. But we humans almost have an instinctive urge to latch on to negative feelings. This is why, fears are so difficult to shrug off and doubts become embedded in our psyche. By allowing you to pause, meditation gives you the quiet mental space where you can watch your thoughts and feelings before you react to them.
- By letting you process your thoughts and feelings. A calm mind is more effective at processing thoughts and emotions than an agitated one. By calming the mind, meditation lets you analyze what you are feeling and decide for yourself which thoughts to let go off and which to mull over. A pause is all you need to reflect on and decide to let go off negative feelings.
- By helping you realize that sleep doesn’t happen as a result of effort. It comes naturally as a result of relaxation, a result of letting go. When you notice attempts to control the process, you can learn to gently remind yourself of this. You can learn to let go and trust the natural processes to take their course.
- By helping you reduce the fear of not getting enough sleep. ‘ Funnily’ enough, a major factor behind sleeplessness is the excessive concern and fear of not sleeping enough. You can reduce these concerns, by cultivating a ‘so what?’ attitude while meditating, reminding yourself that: ‘Yes, if I don’t sleep well tonight, tomorrow may have some uncomfortable moments, but it’s just temporary. I surrender to that possibility and will be able to tolerate it if that shall happen’. An attitude of ‘surrender’ to what is, or to what may come, dramatically increases your sense of inner calm and resilience, also causing your body and mind to unwind and drift into sleep.
The positive correlation between mental stress and insomnia has been well-established. Unfortunately, stressors are overflowing in our lives. There are stressors at the workplace. The seemingly unending stream of bills is a stressor that keeps many people awake at nights. Then there is the nagging worry about not being able to build a tidy nest egg.
You do not need to invite more stress into your life by worrying about not getting enough sleep. But it is easier said than done because we naturally tend to worry about issues that are not resolved and problems that have not yet been solved.
The letting-go mindset is not just effective for dozing off to sleep. It also helps you navigate life’s choppy waters with serenity, wisdom, clarity, and perspective. A letting-go attitude helps you make the right decisions. Being able to be okay with whatever comes your way keeps you stress-free and relaxed, a state of being that makes it easy for you to get a restful night’s sleep.
The letting-go attitude is challenging to cultivate. A guided meditation track that you can listen to over and over again implants positive suggestions and cements these into your mind, so you do not feel compelled to hang on to anxieties. We invite you to try the meditable app’s guided meditation tracks to nurture this mindset and have restful, recharging nights.