By Shelby Freedman Harris
As someone who works every day with patients struggling with insomnia, the most common thing I hear is once the head hits the pillow, the brain doesn’t stop. They know sleep should come, but the brain just wants to think about both pressing and mundane things, such as reviewing the day’s events and tasks that need to be completed.
When we lose awareness of the present moment, our minds get stuck in maladaptive ways of thinking. For example, you might be trying to go to sleep but your mind gets lost thinking about all the groceries you need to buy. Deep, relaxed breathing is forgotten. And once you realize sleep isn’t happening, your muscles tense and your thought process quickly shifts to “I’m not falling asleep! I have XYZ to do this week and I won’t be able to function tomorrow.” The body seizes up, breathing and heart rate can both quicken, and falling sleep becomes more difficult.
Newer models of insomnia treatment are beginning to incorporate mindfulness. Here’s a grounding exercise to help you get some quality shut-eye. Read on …
Shelby Freedman Harris is a clinical psychologist and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.