There are many different factors that influence whether we get a good night’s sleep or not. Things like the temperature of the room, light and noise levels, how comfortable the mattress and bedding are, what we ate and when we ate it, whether we had a glass (or two) of wine that evening, how late in the afternoon we had a coffee, how much screen exposure we had before bed. All of these things play a part in how easy we fall asleep and the quality of sleep we get throughout the night.
But there is another thing that has a massive influence on our sleep. One that even if we’ve sorted out all of the other things above, threatens to completely derail our ability to sleep. Yep, we’re talking about an overactive brain, racing thoughts, anxiety, stress, and being unable to switch off. It is quite literally a nightmare.
In this article, we’re going to share a mindfulness exercise called the 54321 grounding method that can help calm those anxious thoughts and put your worries to bed so that hopefully you too can drift off in peaceful slumber.
What Is The 54321 Grounding Method?
Before we look at how this method could help with our sleep, let’s firstly explore what it actually is. The 54321 grounding method is a mindfulness tool that can be be used to help us feel grounded in the moment. It is a technique that is often used by therapists, counsellors, and psychologists to help patients overcome anxiety and panic attacks. So, how does it work?
Well, the concept is pretty simple really. The idea is to focus on each one of the five senses in the following ways:
- 5 Things You Can See
- 4 Things You Can Touch
- 3 Things You Can Hear
- 2 Things You Can Smell
- 1 Thing You can Taste
Each stage of this exercise gives you something else to concentrate on rather than anxious worries. It teaches you to switch your attention from the negative thoughts in your brain that are keeping you awake, to instead focus on what is happening in the here and now. Not only does this allow you to regain control of yourself, but the process of doing this also help you to relax your body and mind in such a way that it is far more conducive to sleep.
It is common for the practice to start with a series of slow, deep breaths and should always be done somewhere quiet where you can concentrate without distraction and where you feel safe and unselfconscious.
How Can I Use The 54321 Grounding Method For Better Sleep?
OK, so now we know what the 54321 grounding method is, we need to think about the specifics of what we can include in our 54321 list that will help us to relax before bed.
Here are some ideas for you:
- 5 Things You Can See – Ideally you want your room to be dark, or certainly as dim as possible, when you’re trying to get to sleep which will obviously make seeing things a whole lot more difficult. But not impossible. Sleep inducing lights like Himalayan salt lamps or sunset lamps offer a relaxing focal point. If it is a bright night, moonlight may creep through the edges of your curtains and this may cast just enough light for you to notice silhouettes around the room. And if it’s so dark you can’t even see your own nose in front of your face, close your eyes and focus on what colours and visuals you can see behind closed eyelids instead.
- 4 Things You Can Touch – Pay attention to the fabrics you can feel on your skin, for example your pyjamas, the bed sheets, your duvet, the pillow. Think about how they feel on your skin, the softness of them, the texture, how warm they are. And whilst we’re on the subject of warmth, make sure your bedroom thermostat is set to a good temperature so that you’re not too hot and not too cold, as that will definitely help you sleep better.
- 3 Things You Can Hear – For optimum sleep you should really have as minimal noise as possible in the bedroom, but let’s be realistic, it is virtually impossible to be 100% noise free and so we’re going to use it to our advantage. Listen out for sounds from outside; cars, owls, wind, and rain etc., for sounds inside the house; water going through the pipes, floors creaking, bed springs creaking, duvets rustling, and for sounds inside of you; your heartbeat, your breathing. You could also play calming music or white noise, which will help you to relax even more and bring you closer to sleep.
- 2 Things You Can Smell – We obviously wouldn’t recommend burning a candle overnight, but you could light your favourite scented candle an hour before bed and use the time to read a book or do your skincare routine. The room will smell gorgeous and give you something to focus on, but make sure you put out the candle before settling down for the night. You can also spray your pillows and bedding with a sleep spray that contains lavender.
- 1 Thing You Can Taste – We’re not going to suggest hitting the midnight snacks, so don’t go getting your hopes up, eating food late at night is definitely not advisable if you want a good night’s sleep. Make yourself a calming cup of herbal tea; chamomile, lavender, or passionflower are all good sleep inducers. Or if you’re not a tea drinker, focus instead on the taste of the toothpaste once you’ve brushed your teeth, and this one won’t have you getting up in the middle of the night needing a wee!
If you follow this practice every night, over time you will begin to associate these things with going to sleep. And you may reach a point where you won’t even reach the end of the countdown because you have trained yourself to sleep so well.
Remember that it can take time to fully relax into any mindfulness activity, so you’ll need to be patient. As with anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at it. But it will be so worth it.