Sleep disturbances can be inconvenient, causing a bad mood and an unproductive workday. Even worse, a lack of sleep can have grave implications for your health, like a compromised immune system, weight gain, and high blood pressure. The good news is that you can do something about it. If you find it hard to get a good night’s sleep or would just like to get better sleep, we’d like to introduce you to meditation for sleep.
What Causes Sleep Problems?
The inability to fall or stay asleep can have many possible triggers, such as:
- Going to bed at inconsistent times. Your body likes it best when you keep a regular schedule. If you stay up past your typical bedtime or have an irregular sleeping schedule, you may find it hard to fall asleep.
- Large amounts of stress. If your work has been stressful, that tension may overflow into your nighttime routine, making it harder to get shut-eye.
- Mental health disorders. Mental health disorders, like anxiety or depression, can negatively impact your sleep.
- Pain or illness. Pain or illness can cause discomfort or trouble relaxing, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Consuming caffeine. Drinking too much caffeine or drinking it too late in the day can make it hard to feel tired. Stick to no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. This amounts to about four cups or less of coffee or tea. And be sure to stop drinking caffeine at least six hours before bedtime.
- Medications. Trouble sleeping is a possible side effect of some medications. Talk with your doctor if this is a concern.
- Sleep disorders. Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or insomnia, may disrupt your sleep, leading you to wake up feeling unrested.
- Using blue light screens before bed. Staring at blue light can be stimulating. So say goodnight to your tech devices at least one hour before hitting the hay.
- Napping too close to bedtime. A short nap during the day can be healthy and restorative. But if you nap too close to bedtime, it can be problematic. Avoid napping later than right after lunchtime.
- Consuming alcohol. Do you wake up tired after ending your night with a glass of wine? There’s a reason why. Alcohol impacts your REM sleep, which is the deepest and most restorative stage of sleep.
- Using your bed for non-sleep activities. Sometimes it can be tempting to finish up work in bed. But slipping underneath the covers with your laptop confuses your body about what your bed is for, making it harder to use your bed as a trigger for sleep.
Can Meditation Treat Sleeping Problems?
Yes and no. Meditation positively alters your health, promoting a good night’s sleep. However, meditation is not a cure for any underlying medical conditions that may be impacting your deep sleep. If you’re experiencing sleep loss, it’s important to seek professional medical advice.
How Meditation Can Lead to Better Sleep
Let’s take a look at a few of the ways meditation helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night:
Regulates Sleep Hormones
In a perfect world, the hormones in your body that regulate sleep like serotonin, melatonin and cortisol, would always be in perfect balance, allowing you to drift off effortlessly. But life can take its toll on these hormones, throwing them out of whack.
For instance, too much stress can raise your cortisol levels higher than they should be, leading to a host of health problems, including issues with sleep.
Similarly, consistent meditation brings serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential to a stable mood and quality sleep, into balance, too.
The result? The hormones that dictate your sleeping patterns are in better harmony, allowing you to fall asleep more easily at night and awake feeling more rested in the morning.
Activates Parasympathetic Nervous System
When our bodies are faced with a threat, they enter “fight or flight mode”. This mode activates our sympathetic nervous system, which leads to high blood pressure, anxiety, and panic.
Fight or flight mode can help when responding to an actual threat, but due to our busy lifestyles and caffeine love affairs, many of us find our sympathetic nervous systems engaged too often. Unsurprisingly, this makes it hard to fall asleep.
Meditation activates your parasympathetic nervous system, also called the “rest and digest” mode. In this mode, your heart rate and breathing slow down and you feel more at peace. This makes it much easier to take deep breaths and fall asleep.
Combat Racing Thoughts
Spiritual master, Meher Baba, once said, “A mind that is fast is sick. A mind that is slow is sound. A mind that is still is divine.” This feels especially true when struggling with racing thoughts. When they happen before bed (or wake us up in the middle of the night), racing thoughts are a huge contributor to poor sleep. Luckily, meditation is all about learning to notice, label, and redirect your thoughts. So once you’ve developed those skills, you can put those racing thoughts to bed (literally).
How Frequently Do You Need to Meditate for Better Sleep?
Regardless of why you’re meditating, it’s best to do it every day. But if you fall off track and forget, don’t be discouraged. Just take up your meditation practice again as soon as you can; you’ll still see plenty of benefits.
Also, note that meditation can improve your sleep even if you don’t do it right before bed. It doesn’t work like a sleeping pill.
Instead, meditation creates an internal harmony that helps you fall asleep easily when it’s time for bed, and feel alert and awake when it’s not! So feel free to meditate whenever works best for you.
How to Meditate for Restful Sleep
If you’re not sure how to meditate, don’t worry. You can meditate just about anywhere and any time, without any special knowledge or equipment. To meditate, all you have to do is sit and be, letting your thoughts pass through your mind without clinging to them. But here are a few tips that might make your meditation experience more enjoyable:
- Before beginning your meditation, limit distractions. Choose a quiet spot (such as an unused corner of your office) where you’re unlikely to be disturbed. If possible, ask whoever may be near you not to disrupt your practice.
- It’s easier to relax into meditation when you’re wearing comfortable clothing, so do so if possible. That said, we don’t recommend skipping a meditation session just because you’re in a suit!
- Determine the length of your meditation session before you begin. This way, you’re more likely to complete the session, even if you get restless.
A Guided Sleep Meditation
4 Meditation Techniques for Sleep
Many types of meditation can help you achieve restful sleep, but these are four great options to start with:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
To practice a mindfulness sleep meditation, begin by bringing your awareness to your breath. Follow your inhale, then follow your exhale. As your thoughts wander, simply notice them without judgement and then return to your breath.
This meditation is great for beginners, and many advanced practitioners consider it the bedrock of their meditation practice.
2. Body Scan Meditation
A body scan meditation is a type of mindfulness meditation. In this meditation, you observe the physical sensations in each part of your body. To practice this meditation, start by drawing your attention to your breath.
Once you’ve followed your inhalations and exhalations a few times, you can begin the scan. Start by directing your attention to the top of your head or the bottom of your feet. Then, move along your body, noticing each body part in turn and noting any sensations without judgment. If you’d like, you can try relaxing each part of your body as you draw attention to it.
3. Visualization Meditation
Visualizing a calming scene can be a wonderful way to relax and get sleepy. Often, it’s easier to do this with a guided meditation app, like Primed Mind. If you’re new to meditation and feel intimidated by the prospect of silently following your breath, this is a great alternative.
4. Gratitude Meditation
To practice a gratitude meditation, mentally list everything you’re grateful for. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself feeling more relaxed, and you’re likely to fall asleep (and wake up) in a positive mood.
Meditation Apps for Sleep
Even if you’re not doing a visualization meditation, guided meditation apps are a great way to start meditating for improved sleep. Not only do they make meditation feel more accessible, but they’re also great for keeping you focused as your mind starts to wander. And because meditation apps come out with new content all the time, you’ll never get bored with your practice.
Frequently Asked Questions About Meditation for Sleep
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about meditating for sleep:
Can Deep Meditation Replace Sleep?
While meditation can leave you feeling refreshed and energized, it’s not a substitute for sleep. Use it to improve sleep instead!
When Should I Meditate For Sleep?
Meditation before bed can improve your sleep. But a regular meditation practice can help you get a good night’s rest even if you don’t do it right before bed. So meditate at the time of day (or night) that works best for you.
More Helpful Ways to Fall Asleep
Meditation for sleep works best when combined with other measures to improve your sleep. This is called good “sleep hygiene.”
Every day, be sure to:
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool
- Refrain from looking at blue light at least one hour before bedtime
- Get regular exercise
- Maintain a consistent bedtime
- Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Refrain from doing activities other than sleeping in your bed
Meditation is not a cure for sleep disorders, but it can improve sleep quality by addressing issues that lead to sleep problems, like stress, anxiety, and racing thoughts.
Try combining meditation with taking proper care of your health through exercise and nutrition. You may find that adding meditation to your wellness routine is enough to banish the sleeping pills to the back of your medicine cabinet. If you’re new to meditation or want to try guided meditations to help you drift off, Primed Mind is here to help.