The Cognitive Shuffle – How Does Meditation Help? 

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping lately – and the gradual disintegration of the postwar global order may have been keeping you up – I have some good news for you. With lucky timing, Canadian cognitive scientist has devised the “cognitive shuffle,” a novel remedy for insomnia. It is essentially a strategy of purposely rearranging your ideas such that they make no sense. And since the rest of the world doesn’t, what have you got to lose?

Conventional methods of treating insomnia, according to Beaudoin, are usually ineffective. If nervous thoughts are keeping you awake, counting sheep will not help: it’s a completely uninteresting exercise, which means practically any other idea, particularly fears, will be more enticing. Relaxation techniques are sometimes doomed by the fact that you are intentionally attempting to sleep – a sure recipe for failure. Moreover, when done correctly, mindfulness meditation makes you more aware, not less. 

The cognitive shuffle includes mentally imagining a random succession of items for a few seconds, such as a cow, a microphone, a loaf of bread, and so on. The sequence must be actually useless, or otherwise, you’ll fall back into ruminating. Beaudoin’s MySleepButton app, which whispers the names of things in your ear, is one alternative. Another option is to choose a word, such as “bedtime,” and then imagine as many objects beginning with “b” as you can, then “e,” then “d,” etc… If my experience is any indication, you’ll be sleeping by then. 

According to Beaudoin, this works partly because the brain has evolved to examine what one specific section of the brain, the cortex, is doing to assess if it’s safe to fall asleep. If it is engaging in “sense-making” activities, it may be considering risks. Yet, if your ideas have devolved into meandering babble, the coast is clear. You activate the sleep switch by flooding the mind with gibberish. But, the strategy also works for a basic reason: it is difficult to focus on numerous things at the same time. Thinking about your mortgage is difficult when you’re focused on imagining a microphone. 

The Role of Cognitive Shuffle in Life 

The Cognitive Shuffle entails imagining random elements that are simple to visualize and non-threatening. Choose a word and mentally spell it out slowly. Consider additional words that begin with the same letter and envision them for each letter of the word. 

This should be done for each letter in the word. Dr. Rubin gives a few instances of how this exercise would function in practice in the video.

  • You may, for example, begin with the word “breath.”
  • B-words might include banana, bake, baby, bye, etc.
  • Next to R-words, such as relax, rain, radio, running, etc.

One approach she mentions is to avoid associating two words together. In other words, ensure that back-to-back terms aren’t too closely related. You want the words to be distinct so that your mind does not follow a train of thought or begin to form a tale.

How Does Meditation Help in 

Meditation is a mind-body treatment. Since meditation approaches sometimes mix mental activity with physical factors such as deep breathing, see Source. Sleep meditation tries to bring a general calm that helps prepare the body for sleep by addressing anxious thoughts and physical stress symptoms.

Meditation practices are meant to foster a more relaxed reaction to a person’s anxious thoughts and feelings on a mental level. Mindfulness is frequently used in meditation practices.

To eliminate distractions, meditation may also include concentrating on a repeating phrase, a visual picture, a sound, or a sense, such as breathing.

Meditation is also intended to elicit a bodily relaxation response, which works to counterbalance the stress reaction. Sweating, a high heart rate, faster breathing, tight muscles, and raised blood pressure are all symptoms of the stress reaction, which are not favorable to sleep. The relaxation response lowers brain waves, decreases heart rate and blood pressure, and regulates breathing. Mindfulness and meditation aid sleep in a variety of ways.

  • Slowed breathing: Deep breathing with the diaphragm, a muscle behind the lungs, is central to many meditation techniques. One of the primary channels through which meditation relieves anxiety appears to be the emphasis on calm, deep breathing.
  • Meditation can help reduce heart rate and blood pressure like other relaxation practices. According to some research, meditation lessens the activation of stress pathways in the brain and stress hormone levels.
  • Better mental outlook: Focusing on the moment during meditation may help people less frequently worry about the past or future and soften their emotions about painful circumstances.
  • Improved pain management: Some studies have concluded that meditation can help pain management, while others have not. Even if meditation may not alleviate a person’s physical discomfort, it may make it more bearable. This impact may be beneficial to persons who have difficulty sleeping due to chronic discomfort.

The Final Words

Although additional study is needed, evidence shows that mindfulness meditation, like exercise or cognitive behavioral therapy, may enhance sleep quality. 

Several individuals report improved sleep quality up to a year after beginning a meditation practice. Researchers believe this is due to changes in brain connections, how people progress through sleep phases, and the use of mental strategies that reduce sleep-disrupting thoughts.

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