“If I fall asleep now, I’ll get six solid hours of rest.” The tossing and turning continues, until you take another look at the clock:
“Okay, make that five.”
We’ve all been there.
And if my battle with insomnia has taught me something, it’s that the cure hides in the simplest of things. One of them is meditation for sleep.
Are you interested in learning more, and finally getting a good night’s rest you deserve? Then keep on reading!
Meditation For Sleep: Does It Work, And How?
It’s okay to be skeptical – I was, too.
I mean, when you’ve tried pretty much everything under the sun in hopes of improving your sleep quality, and nothing worked, it’s perfectly reasonable to have your doubts about meditation for sleep, too.
That’s why I wanted to start off this article with some substantial evidence that meditation does affect your sleep patterns, and could, in fact, be the most natural cure for insomnia ever.
So, what goes on in your body while you meditate?
First off, meditation affects the brainwaves by altering the electrical activity in your brain and helps you switch from a higher frequency to a lower one. So, instead of experiencing an overflow of Beta brain waves (that’s what’s keeping you up at night), meditation will help your brain transition into an entirely different state, one ruled by the following brainwave frequencies:
Which occur when you start meditating and help you reach a state of overall calmness.
Which your brain starts producing once you reach a deeper level of relaxation, and meditation, when you stop paying attention to the outside world.
Commonly associated with a state of deep sleep, and the one we’re looking to help you reach today.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to remember all these brainwave facts I just threw at you. It wasn’t my intention to overwhelm you with facts, anyway. I just wanted you to see that today’s science confirms what meditators have been telling us all along – meditation restores balance to, and heals both your body and soul.
Another thing I should mention is melatonin.
Everyone who’s ever dealt with insomnia knows how vital melatonin’s role is in regulating sleep.
The levels of melatonin in your body change throughout the day, rising in the evening, and dropping in the morning when it’s time to wake up. It’s not uncommon for doctors to recommend melatonin supplements as a means of dealing with insomnia – that’s how big of a role this hormone plays in managing your messed up sleep-wake cycle.
But did you know that practicing meditation can enhance melatonin levels naturally?
As several studies showed
By regularly practicing meditation, you can improve not only your melatonin levels for the night but levels of serotonin and noradrenaline (melatonin’s precursors), as well. With that in mind, it’s obvious why meditation for sleep should become a part of your daily bedtime routine. Pamper yourself – have a nice, long bubble bath, slip on something comfortable, and give meditation a try.
Who Should Give A Try?
Insomnia can have a devastating effect on a person. You haven’t had a good night’s rest in what seems like forever, you’re beyond tired, and you’re starting to feel like you’re losing your mind. I get it, and I’m not just saying that to make you feel better. I’ve been in that same position.
As I mentioned before, I battled insomnia for years, before I finally figured out the right tools to banish insomnia once and for all. The best part is I did it the natural way – and so can you!
Which brings me to my next point: Who should give meditation for sleep a try?
The truth is, when you’re having trouble falling asleep, your mind is usually the one to blame. Some people have brains that refuse to shut off when it’s time to go to bed. So, be honest with yourself – are you one of those people?
Do you find yourself staring at the ceiling, even though it’s well past midnight, overthinking the simplest of things? Or maybe replaying your list of chores for the following day over and over again in your head? Is your mind so busy, that it keeps you awake at night?
Then yes, the beauty of meditating is that it not only affects the body but the mind, as well. And trust me, even though it may seem impossible right now, you can train your mind to relax, let go of its worries for the time being, and sleep.
Below are some of my favorite techniques of meditation, so keep on reading!
One thing all these methods of meditation for sleep have in common is that you’ll have to perform them in a peaceful, calming environment. You can pick the best form of meditation in the world, and it still won’t work if someone (or something) keeps interrupting you.
So, the first thing you should do is find that quiet corner of your home (preferably your bedroom – after all, we’re here to help you get some sleep). Now, let’s take a look at the four most effective techniques of meditation, and find the one that works for you!
1Method #1: Guided Meditation
You might be thinking:
Isn’t guided meditation just another name for any form of meditation where someone else is giving you suggestions on what to do?
Well, yes, you’re mostly right.
However, you’ll have to find guided meditation explicitly made to address your sleep issues, which could be a more daunting task than you’d imagine. Why? Because, while the internet is full of guided meditation for sleep videos and audio recordings, not all of them will be the right fit for you.
That’s perfectly fine, though.
If you don’t find the background music soothing, or there’s something about the voice of the teacher that merely rubs you the wrong way, you won’t be able to reach the desired state of complete and utter relaxation. If that’s the case, move on to the next one. Now’s the time to be picky.
That said, I’d like to recommend an app my husband and I have been using for quite some time now – Calm. It includes not only guided meditations but bedtime stories (aimed at adults, of course), relaxing music and nature sounds, as well.
I would advise you to download the desired content – 3 to 4 tracks should be enough for 20-minute meditation practice. That way, you can go offline, and avoid any possible distractions.
Calm is available for both Android users, as well as iOS users (on iTunes), and most importantly, it’s free! I know it helped me and my husband get a good night’s rest, so let me know what you think once you try it out.
And since we’re on the subject, here are some tips for finding the right guided:
Look for videos and audio files that come from reputable sources. As I said, this is the time to be picky.
If you plan on purchasing an audio file with a guided meditation for sleep, please read the reviews first – you’ll want to know what others think of it before spending your money.
If the one you opt for is free, don’t make the mistake of not listening to it once before you use it – you don’t want a noisy ad startling you right in the middle of your meditation.
Now that you’ve learned how to pick the right audio file, here’s a quick sum up of how to perform guided meditation, step by step:
- Safety first: Never use your headphones, because those things can quickly get wrapped around your neck if you fall asleep, which can be pretty dangerous. Also, remember to set a sleep mode timer on your audio device. That way, you won’t have to get up to turn it off once you’re done meditating.
- Find a quiet place: Get rid of any distractions, turn off the lights, and put on something comfortable – all this will help you feel relaxed.
- Breathing: Take the time to focus on your breathing before you even press the “play” button. A couple of deep, rhythmic breaths will do.
- Press “Play”: Now it’s time to play the track. Focus on what the instructor is saying, try your best to visualize everything, and make sure you follow the instructions to the best of your ability. That’s the only way guided meditation will work.
- Play it again: If you don’t manage to fall asleep by the end of the track, feel free to play it again.
What I love about guided meditation for sleep is that it doesn’t require much. As long as you have someone with a voice you find soothing (more often than not, it’s through a previously recorded session) to guide you through the experience, and you’re in a quiet environment with minimal chances of being interrupted, you’re pretty much good to go.
That’s one of the main reasons why my husband and I decided to give it a try in the first place.
Anyway, if you’re entirely new to the concept of meditation, but you’re willing to give it a try, guided meditation is the best place to start.
2Method #2: Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is one of my favorites, and not just as a method of meditation. Sometimes, when life becomes a bit too much, I like to take a few deep breaths and regain control over my emotions – and it’s the mindfulness meditation that taught me to do so.
So, how does it work?
Mindfulness meditation creates a fascinating physiological shift in your body. Instead of a stress response, by meditating and bringing your focus to the present moment – as opposed to worrying about the future or the past – you create a reflex that induces a relaxation response, even in stressful situations.
The concept is rather simple as it consists of only three steps:
Find something calming to focus on:
The first thing you should do is find a calming focal point. Choose anything that could help you relax – your breath, a sound (a lot of people see the vibration of the „om” as very soothing), or a word or phrase that carries an affirmative meaning to you.
If you decide to focus on sounds, repeat it as you breathe in or out, either out loud or silently – that’s entirely up to you.
I know it sounds like an obvious thing to do, but when it comes to meditation, breathing becomes a lot more than an endless circle of inhaling and exhaling. Instead, you become aware of your breath, feeling the air enter your body, and fill your lungs. And as you exhale, imagine your thoughts and worries for the day are leaving your body, too.
Consider starting your mindfulness meditation with five deep breaths – it will help you relax.
Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
Learn to let go:
That is probably the most significant learning experience behind mindfulness meditation – the art of letting go. Watch your thoughts come and go, without trying to filter them, but instead of getting caught up in worrying about the past and future events, make a note of these thoughts, and then let them go.
Bring your mind’s awareness to the present moment, and focus on moment-by-moment sensations – both emotional and physical.
If it’s your mind that’s keeping you up at night, there’s one more thing I’d like you to try – keeping a journal. I know it sounds like something only a teenage girl would do, but trust me on this – instead of going over them in your head, put all your worries, goals, and plans on paper, and once the lights go out, let go of them.
As I already mentioned, mindfulness meditation has to be one of my personal favorites, and the one I find myself practicing the most. The main reason why is that it teaches me, time and again, to stop worrying about the what-ifs, and to focus on what truly matters – the present.
So, if you can’t seem to shut off your mind at night, please give mindfulness meditation a try!
3Method #3: Body Scan Meditation
You know the expression “to be painfully aware” of something? Well, this is it – body scan meditation is a textbook example of the saying. Imagine being painfully aware of your own body, and every single muscle in it.
Don’t worry, though – it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as it sounds.
Overwhelming? Yes, it has to be to a certain extent, merely because most of us aren’t used to focusing on our bodies in such a way. But painful, or otherwise uncomfortable? No, not really.
The idea behind this meditation technique is to use your mind to systematically sweep through your entire body, one region at a time. That way, you’ll intentionally bring your focus to all the different sensations that are currently present in those regions.
And not only that; bringing awareness to the various parts of your body in a systematic way helps you identify and eliminate any previously” hidden” tension.
Here’s a summed up version of the body scan meditation, step by step:
Assume a relaxing position:
Lay down, with your legs slightly apart, and your arms resting beside you, with the palms turned upwards. Make sure that the room you’re in is free of distractions.
Close your eyes, and take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Try to imagine your breath sweeping through your body, going all the way from your toes to your head as you inhale, and down the same route as you exhale.
Scan your body:
While a definite rule on where you should start scanning your body doesn’t exist, customarily it begins in the toes of your left foot. From there, slowly travel through your entire foot, and all its parts, before you move your attention upwards.
Scan your shin and calf, then move on to your kneecap. When you reach your thigh, focus on its entirety – not just the surface, but the muscles that lay deep within – and finally, your hip.
When you reach your right hip, move your attention to the entire pelvic area, including your glutes, and your lower back.
Attend to the sensations in your abdomen, and then your upper torso. Remember that your upper body is more than just your chest and upper back; bring your focus to your rib cage, and the vital organs it houses, as well.
Move on to your hands, starting from the fingers, and gradually moving upwards, all the way back to your shoulders.
Finish off with your head:
From there, draw your focus to your neck, paying attention to your throat, too, and then finally your face, and the rest of your head.
Once you’re done, take a moment to just be – rest, enjoy the state you’re in, and maybe revisit any areas if you feel the need to do so.
At this point, you should be deeply relaxed, but if you find that body scan meditation isn’t helping you fall asleep, that’s perfectly fine, too. However, due to its ability to help you get in touch with your body, you should still practice it from time to time, perhaps as an intro to the next technique, the progressive muscle relaxation.
Personally, I don’t practice body scan meditation on a regular basis. Instead, I prefer to listen to my body and practice it only when I feel the need to do so.
Body scan meditation has proven to be helpful in accepting, and managing pain, which is why I’d recommend it to anyone who’s suffering from chronic pain, but wants to cut back on painkillers.
It seems like a lot to take in all at once, I know. But trust me – not only will body scan meditation help you sleep better, it will help you learn to appreciate your body on an entirely new level, too.
4Method #4: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Surprisingly similar to, but not the same as body scan meditation for sleep, progressive muscle relaxation is a method you could try on its own, or, better yet, as an extension of the body scan meditation.
What’s the difference?
While body scan meditation helps identify the tense areas in your body, progressive muscle relaxation helps remind you how it feels to be relaxed.
Based on something as simple as tensing, and then relaxing your muscles following a specific order, this type of meditation has proven, time and again, to be effective in relieving insomnia, calming anxiety, and even reducing chronic pain.
How does progressive muscle relaxation work?
This step-by-step guide will explain everything:
Start by finding a relaxing position, either seated or lying down (which is probably a better idea, since the goal is to get you to fall asleep), and take a few deep, slow breaths. You might want to consider getting the Coop Home Goods bamboo memory foam pillow for this part – it’s incredible what the right neck support can do for you when it comes to relaxing.
Take a few deep, even breaths to let your body know it’s time to relax. Hold each breath in for a couple of seconds before you let it out.
Once you’re comfortable, proceed to apply tension to individual muscle groups in your body, and breathe in as you do.
After holding your breath for about 5 seconds, exhale and let go of all the tension in your muscles.
When you’re done, take a few extra minutes to enjoy this new found feeling of complete relaxation.
Ideally, you should keep your muscles in a state of tightness for about 5 to 7 seconds, before you let them relax for at least 10 seconds. Here’s a complete list of different muscle groups in the order in which this method of meditation for sleep targets them:
Forehead Raise your eyebrows as if you are surprised.
Eyes Close your eyes tightly.
Mouth and jaw Open your mouth as wide as you can, to feel it in your jaw.
Tongue Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Shoulders Raise your shoulders up, as if you’re shrugging.
Chest Tighten the muscles in your chest by taking a deep breath.
Back Gently arch your back, pulling the shoulders forward.
Abdomen Suck your stomach in to tighten your abdominal muscles.
Glutes Tighten your glutes by pulling them together.
Now move on to your limbs, and remember to do one side at a time:
- Upper arms – Flex your biceps.
- Forearms and wrists – Pretend you’re pushing an invisible wall with the palm of your hand.
- Hands – Clench your fists.
- Thighs – Tighten your thigh muscles just above the knees, or press your legs together.
- Calves – Tense your calf muscles by lifting your toes toward your shin.
- Feet – Curl your toes tightly.
Additional tips: It takes time and practice to get progressive muscle relaxation right. Try meditating two times a day for the first week or so, so that you can get the hang of everything.
The 21st century has brought us a lot of things, and stress was one of them. The truth is, someone who’s leading a stressful lifestyle can carry around so much build-up tension in their muscles, that they quickly lose sight of how it feels to be relaxed.
That’s why I always turn to progressive muscle relaxation when I feel like life is starting to get to me – and you should, too.
So, set aside at least 15 minutes, two times a day – in the morning, and at night, before bed – to practice. After a while, you’ll be able to recognize and deal with signs of stress and strain, before they become overwhelming.
Final Thoughts On Meditation For Sleep: The Art Of Relaxing
So, which one of these methods of meditation for sleep sounds the most appealing to you? Not having a favorite is okay, too – I strongly encourage you to give all these different techniques a chance. You won’t know what works best until you try, right?
One thing’s for sure, though – you’ll finally get a good night’s rest!
If you found this article to be helpful, feel free to leave a comment below – as someone who’s had insomnia for years, I love to hear a success story. And if you think they would enjoy it, consider sharing this article with your friends, too.