Home Personal Psychology Sleeping/Dreaming Pathways to Sleep I (d)–From Health to Sleep: The Mindfulness Pathways

Pathways to Sleep I (d)–From Health to Sleep: The Mindfulness Pathways

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Mindfulness for Higher Purposes

 We would suggest that mindfulness is not just a fad. Even if it is a practice that has no direct impact on sleep, mindfulness should be considered as part of a healthy lifestyle because it is often intended for an even higher purpose. While there is a rather large suite of tools and techniques engaged in achieving mindfulness, the mindfulness process is considered not just a technique and tool to promote high quality sleep and overall improved health. Mindfulness is often engaged for a higher-order purpose: clarity of thought, management of emotional states or even greater enlightenment and wisdom. Compared to mindfulness, our previous pathways to sleep (including stress-reduction) seem to be rather mundane. The other component one pathways are almost exclusively about health. The stress-reduction pathway is primarily in the business of treatment and amelioration. It would be nice if I could get enlightened when exercising or attempting to reduce stress, but I will be satisfied short-term if I can just feel a little bit better and can quit biting my nails or jugging down one more can of beer.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, is about these higher-order things. This pathway is not just about reducing a state of anxiety or stress—though this might be one of the outcomes. Ideally, when mindfulness and the many ways it is practiced (such as through meditation) are consistently engaged, there will be less anxiety and less stress in the life of the practitioner; however, mindfulness is ultimately in the business of overall body/mind/spirit improvement (an important concept to which we shall turn shortly).

Drawing this all-too-simplistic distinction between mindfulness and stress-reduction to a close, we will turn to a brief analysis of how the mindfulness pathways leads specifically to high quality sleep. There are obviously many different mindfulness practices and a long, historical foundation laid in Eastern and some Western philosophical and spiritual traditions for specific practices.

Probably the simplest description of mindfulness is that it is a practice that involves controlled breathing, usually engaged with the practitioner assuming a specific pose (such as sitting in a straight-back position). Various forms of body scan are often engaged (with the practitioner focusing systematically on various bodily functions) and particular attention is paid to sounds in the environment as well as the practitioner’s own feelings and images. We will not attempt to portray any of these foundational principles. We will instead focus on ways that mindfulness facilitates high quality sleep.

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