Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and when we lose out on sleep it can have lasting effects on our physical and mental health. When you are finding it hard to sleep due to outside influences such as stress, illness or chronic pain you can use meditation to help you sleep. Sleep meditations can settle a restless mind and body and help us drift off. They are a much more healthy alternative to sleeping tablets or repeated restless nights of tossing and turning.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a way to train your mind to be more aware of the present moment. We tend to get caught up in our thoughts the most at bedtime when we finally have the time and space to reflect on our day.
Meditation helps lower your heart rate which encourages slower breathing. It is a natural sleep aid as when we meditate we let go of the stresses of our day, allowing us to rest and prepare the mind for relaxation. As a result, this may increase the chance of a peaceful night’s sleep.
What is keeping us up at night?
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Being exhausted and overworked should not be a sign of success if you snooze you definitely do not lose.
We’ve all experienced nights when as soon as our head hits the pillow your mind kicks into overdrive. There are many things that keep us up at night, stress, worries, anxiety and technology all play a role in disrupting our sleep habits.
Regularly sleeping fewer than seven hours a night increases the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Sleep deprivation can cause impairments in short and long-term memory, decision making, attention and reaction time.
Why might you choose to meditate before bed?
If you have insomnia or difficulty falling asleep, meditation has been shown to improve the time it takes you to fall asleep and the quality of sleep you will enjoy.
Meditation for sleep should be approached the same way we approach meditation in the daytime with a relaxed gentle, focus. When we allow the body to relax we are not trying to force sleep but to aid relaxation. You want to stay away from encouraging more thoughts or tension within your body.
Types of meditation
This involves regulating your breath, such as counting breaths, alternating breaths and holding and letting go of your breath.
Mindful body scanning
This is often a guided meditation. As you lie on your bed, you will be asked to notice the breath and any areas of tension in your body. Then, starting from the head, you can think of releasing any tensions held in each part of your body, part by part.
A visualization asks you to imagine an image or scene to help release the stress or tension from within.
To slow the mind down you may be invited to count slowly: starting at 10 and counting backwards to one, then starting at 10 again.
A simple meditation exercise for bedtime
Before you begin a sleep meditation there are a few steps to take.
- Lie in your bed flat on your back, take a few deep breaths and close your eyes.
- Allow your body to be still and rested
- If you’re using a guided meditation, follow the instructions.
- If practising an unguided meditation do so at a pace that feels natural to you.
Shall we begin?
Start by scanning through your body, looking for areas of tension
Start counting your breaths, in and out. If your mind wanders, keep bringing it back to counting your breath, one to ten. The idea is to step away from the worried thinking and give your mind a different object to concentrate on for a while so you can drift back off to sleep.
Focus on these areas of tension and imagine letting go of it, releasing it with your breath.
Begin with your head, moving slowly throughout your body, scanning for areas of tension and releasing this tension with your outward breath. Move all the way down to your toes. This process can take as long or as short as you like ideally, you could dedicate 10 minutes to this relaxation technique.
It can be hard to do this yourself, so if you are looking for help you can find guided meditation in a variety of places including YouTube, Podcasts, CDs & even on Spotify.
Remember to dedicate this time to yourself, your sleep is important and so is your health. Self-care is important and you deserve a peaceful, restful sleep1.