How the body and mind can work together to improve sleep
The mind-body connection is extremely powerful.
When the mind and body are working in tandem, both feel at peace. They feel like you’re on a mountaintop at sunrise, like you’re listening to the crashing waves of the ocean on a summer evening, like you’re watching fresh snow fall while sitting by a crackling fire. You feel present and fulfilled and aligned.
The mind and body impact each other in fantastic and almost superhuman ways. The body can calm the mind down, and the mind can encourage the body to do incredible things. When you train your mind and body to support one another, this impact can be felt every second of every day – you’ll be feeling your best, emotionally and physically.
Your nervous system is at the center of this connection, and it also can be your secret weapon to great sleep. When you’re tossing and turning, worrying about the future or stressing about the past, it’s your mind that’s racing a million miles a minute. To control the nervous system with sleep in mind, we should look to the body.
A mobius strip is the best way to describe the continuous loop that is the mind-body relationship. It’s deeply dependent and intertwined. When we’re feeling like it’s difficult to control the mind, we should look towards the body. As it relates to sleep, we can add in certain practices and activities that will foster the connection and allow us more control over the quality of your sleep.
Practices for better sleep
Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is the umbrella idea that encompasses practices like meditation, yoga nidra, hypnosis, and more. It’s the best way to reset and restabilize the mind-body connection, giving us the rest we need to engage in the world in an intentional, deliberate way. NSDR is an impactful, fundamental way to remain wakeful during the day and make it easier to fall asleep at night. Here are a few ways to implement NSDR in your daily life.
The default mode network is a collection of brain areas that are responsible for your mind wandering. This is what’s at the forefront when you’re lying awake at night, unable to fall asleep. Meditation is a phenomenal way to practice controlling the mind and calming that default mode network. Meditation utilizes breathwork, visualization techniques, perception shifting through interoception, exteroception and dissociation, and much more. There are countless studies and testimonials from people all over the world about how meditation changed their lives in numerous ways: biologically, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Headspace is a great resource whether you’re a new or experienced meditator.
Yoga nidra is another recommended practice that helps cultivate the mind-body connection. Yoga nidra has been found to be just as effective as meditation in reducing cortisol and enhancing neuromodulators.
According to a study completed at a prestigious university in Denmark, meditation, yoga nidra, and other practices like it allow dopamine and other neuromodulators in the striatum (responsible for motor planning and motor execution) to reset themselves.
NSDR practices can be so powerful because they require nothing: no devices, not much time, no supplements. NSDR has been proven to have so many positive, beneficial effects on the human body and soul, all the way to the neuromodulator level. Much like the mind-body connection itself, these are inspirational and motivational findings, and will undoubtedly begin to play a much more prominent role in both physical and mental health, and the act that lives at the crux of it all: sleep.