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Are you one of the people who continually worry about work, life or family that it keeps you awake at night? Do you notice yourself in a vicious cycle of not being able to sleep because of too much worrying? A body scan for sleep is the best solution for you. In this post, we’ll discuss how this exercise helps you relax and sleep well.
What is a Body Scan for Sleep?
A body scan is where we place our full attention on our body and its parts. It usually starts with the soles of our feet, and slowly progress to the top of the head. There are many types of basic body scan audio recordings you can listen to. One example is a three-minute guided meditation by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). This technique greatly helps in relaxation and sleep.
How does a body scan help? When we place our attention on the body in this manner, we can move weaving thoughts in our minds. Instead, we become more aware of what’s happening at the moment, as we are focused on arising bodily sensations.
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It’s quite easy to do. You can try to feel what you’re body is sensing right now. Feel how your foot meets the floor. Feel how your elbows come in contact with the chair. Feel how your tongue touches against your teeth. Can you feel the sensations where contact is taking place? Do you feel some warmth or coldness? How about hardness of softness?
It’s that simple. But if we use it as a technique, a body scan for sleep is done in a systematic and sustained way. This technique is repeated over and over again throughout the body.
How Can I Do This if my Thoughts Keep Distracting Me?
A body scan takes lots and lots of practice. It’s normal that thoughts come in while we are in the middle of doing it. Your mind might be saying, “I don’t like the way that feels”, or “I need to get some money in the bank.”
This is perfectly fine. When this happens, all we need to do is recognize that we are engaged in thought. We give ourselves a pat on the back for noticing this. Afterwards, we just return to concentrating on the body scan and continue with the process.
Distracting thoughts are part of the mediation cycle, and with proper practice and concentration, we can learn to control it. As we progress with the body scan, we inch closer to a state of mindfulness. Listen to this free version of a body scan developed by the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness for more info.
Proper Posture is Crucial
Body scans can be done sitting up or lying down, although sitting is preferred. Lying down is fine, as long as you don’t fall asleep. Although a body scan is used to enhance sleep, the primary goal is to develop awareness. Think of relaxation and better sleep as “side effects,” but the practice has much more in store for you.
If you are sensing some discomfort when sitting, no problem. You can lie down if it works better for you.
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Basics of a Body Scan
Here are essential steps of a body scan:
- Get Ready. Block out at least half an hour of your time. Turn off your gadgets and phones. Lie down or sit in a comfortable place. It can be your bed or a cushy mat. Bring your attention to your body.
- Get Grounded. Before starting the body scan, notice the body parts that come in contact with the mat or bed. That gives you a chance to tune into and relax those parts that have tension. It can be your neck, shoulders or legs. Take a few deep breaths.
- Bring in more oxygen to liven up the body. Exhale deeply to get a relaxing sensation.
- Set Your Intention. Let go of the past and future. Don’t listen to the sounds you hear around you. Imagine your background fading and focus on the body. Whatever you sense, meet it with friendliness. That is vital. Sometimes, if we don’t like what we feel, we tend to judge it.
- Begin the Scan. Imagine taking a tour of your body. What do you sense? Don’t visualize or move the body part. Just notice and experience them, one by one. For example, start with the left foot. Feel how it comes in contact with the mat. Are your toes cooler than the rest of your foot? If you have a sock on, can you notice its texture?
- Sensations might include tingling, buzzing, pressure, tightness or temperature, or anything else. See how it’s done in this sample audio for more details.
- Once you’re done scanning a body part, allow that part to fade away. Then move up to the next body part. From the foot, go to the calf, the knee, then the thigh. Cross over the lower torso and travel down the right leg. Once you’re done with the legs, go up, part by part, until you reach the head.
- Connect it All Together. After scanning the head, connect your entire body together. For example, notice how the head connects to the neck, the neck to the back and chest, the chest to the arms, and so on.
- Final Step: Feel the Skin around the Body. Notice the temperature and texture of your skin.
At the end of it all, we are experiencing awareness of our wholeness at the moment. We’re not thinking about right or wrong, but just a sense of physical wholeness. You’ll see that a body scan relieves pain, promotes relaxation and improves the quality of sleep. It’s recommended that you do a scan for about 30 or 40 minutes to achieve its benefits.
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Body Scan For Sleep. Summary
Essentially, the purpose of a body scan for sleep is to bring awareness to each part of our body in a sequential manner. It’s not to change or judge the body, but just to experience and see what’s there. This is an effective technique that brings extreme relaxation. It will ultimately improve your quality of life.
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