As you lay your head on your pillow to go to sleep, your thoughts start tumbling out of control. You mull over something that happened at work and make a mental list of what you have to do tomorrow. Your body feels tense and on edge as the minutes tick by. You start worrying that you’ll be too tired to function in the morning, which puts sleep even further out of reach.
If this sounds familiar, you’re certainly not alone. Various studies have shown that insomnia affects 10-30 percent of the population across the globe. Thankfully, a powerful tool exists that can help you conquer your sleep woes: meditation. In this article, we’ll be exploring how simple meditation techniques can help calm your body and mind and create the space needed for deep sleep.
Why is sleep so important anyway?
Good sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s an essential function that allows your body and mind to rest, repair, and recharge. Although it might look like you’re not doing much while asleep, your brain and body are actually hard at work overseeing a wide variety of biological upkeep.
Without enough sleep, your brain struggles to perform basic functions and you increase your risk of several health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, infection, and depression.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a centuries-old practice that encompasses a variety of mind and body techniques used to promote relaxation and train your attention. Many people believe that meditation is about trying to turn off your thoughts and feelings, but that is incorrect. In actuality, meditation teaches you to observe your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them, allowing you to live in a more present state of awareness.
How does meditation help with sleep?
If restorative sleep eludes you night after night, adopting a nightly meditation practice before bedtime could help. Let’s take a look at the primary ways meditation supports restful sleep:
Evokes the relaxation response
While many factors can impair your ability to sleep, stress is one of the main culprits. Stress throws your body into a state of fight-or-flight, which triggers a cascade of anxious thoughts, nervous energy, and uncomfortable bodily sensations.
Through techniques that focus on deep breathing and bringing the mind’s attention to the present moment, meditation reduces the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) and increases the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”). This results in physiological changes, including lowered heart rate, slowed breathing, reduced anxiety, and enhanced melatonin levels, all of which are conducive to sleep.
Encourages a state of acceptance and awareness
If you’ve been dealing with sleep struggles for a long time, you may start to associate bedtime with worries about not being able to fall asleep. Meditation helps by inducing a state of acceptance and awareness, allowing you to let go of those worries and calm your nervous system in preparation for sleep.
Helps you process your day
The mind’s tendency to get wrapped up in thoughts is often strongest at bedtime when you become still and distractions are minimized. Meditation helps you calmly process all of the impressions of your day, creating the mental space needed for deep sleep.
What types of meditation are good for sleep?
There are many different meditation techniques you can use to promote sleep, some of which include:
Deep breathing: Breathing is one of the key pillars of meditation and forms the basis of most meditation practices. Learning to regulate and slow your breathing sends a signal to your mind and body that it’s safe to relax and go to sleep.
Visualisation: Visualisations entail imagining an image, scene, or colour that makes you feel safe, happy, and at ease. As with deep breathing, visualising a calming image indicates to your mind and body that it’s safe to lower your defences and get some shut-eye.
Body scanning: Body scanning entails slowly scanning your body with your mind, concentrating on the sensations emitted from each part of your body. This can also be combined with Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), which involves tensing and releasing muscles throughout your body.
Stories and sounds: There’s an ever-growing range of content available consisting of stories, sounds, and music that are designed to help people drift off into dreamland. These are available through meditation apps, podcasts, and audio guides.
How can you get started with meditation for sleep?
For those who are just learning the ropes of meditation or prefer meditating with guidance, using a meditation app, such as Andrew Johnson’s Deep Sleep app, is ideal.
Deep Sleep, which is available for iOS and Android, is an easy-to-use meditation tool that is particularly useful for those who have trouble stilling their minds, a prerequisite for deep, restorative sleep. With guided and gentle meditation, Deep Sleep is designed to lower stress and anxiety, allowing you to easily fall into a restful slumber.
For additional guided meditations, explore the Relax Change Create Meditation app available for iOS and Android. This app offers over 400 tracks to help you sleep better, create abundance, feel positive, set goals, build confidence, overcome anxiety, and so much more.
The bottom line
Meditation is an effective tool that can help create the inner conditions needed to effortlessly fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. For sleep meditation to be most effective, try not to treat it as just another task to check off your to-do list. Instead, let it become an integral part of your bedtime routine and the first relaxing stage of a good night’s sleep.
Whether you’re a beginner or a lifelong practitioner, using a guided meditation app for better sleep can help you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake up feeling rested, restored, and ready to take on the day.