How Meditation Can Help You Sleep Better
If you've ever tossed and turned in bed, plagued by thoughts you just can't seem to shake off at night, you're not alone. 20-40 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder, whether it's occasional, or something more serious. Not only is it frustrating at the time, lack of sleep can take a toll on you the next day, affecting your focus, mood, and energy levels.
Thankfully, there's a simple yet powerful remedy for sleep issues: meditation.
Meditation has a lot of benefits, as anyone who meditates will tell you (and increasingly scientific research will, too); but as far as sleep goes, the most important is that it can promote relaxation. Relaxation is the first step towards getting more restful sleep.
At WITHIN, we get that it can be tricky to get started meditating. Keep in mind that all it takes is consistency, and patience. Just like trying out something new for the first time, it could take a while for you to find your groove. But once you've got it, it's truly rewarding.
How meditation improves sleep
Meditation, coupled with belly breathing techniques, can help a you tap your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps remove tension from your body. Guided mindfulness meditations often ask you to observe certain areas of the body which feel tense: they're clenched, or not relaxed. When the mind is calm, the body will follow, and this will put you in a peaceful state that can prepare you for bed.
Life Hack also shared findings that meditation prolongs Slow Wave Sleep, the deepest part of non-REM sleep. This is important for uninterrupted sleep. You may not realize it, but waking up frequently in the middle of the night is also a sign that you’re not sleeping well.
When do you begin meditating?
If you're optimizing for good sleep, meditation is best done at night, right before bed. But before you do, set yourself up for a relaxing meditation and for winding down. Reader's Digest stresses the importance of creating a sleep-friendly environment. Lighting incense sticks or spraying an aromatic scent sets the stage for sleep, and it also doubles as a great way to make your meditation more tranquil. You could also have a light snack or drink, especially if you're feeling frazzled. Foxy Bingo suggests that a cup of warm milk with cinnamon and honey works great to help you calm down, because all of the three ingredients have relaxing properties. Milk contains melatonin, AKA the sleep hormone; cinnamon has an anti-inflammatory effect that soothes muscles; and honey works as a natural sedative by calming the nerves. Once your mind and body have taken cues from your surroundings that it's time for bed, it's the perfect time to meditate.
Avoid having to get up and do last-thing tasks after the meditation, such as brushing your teeth, so that you won't have to focus on anything else but the comfort of your bedroom. That will naturally help you unwind and sleep better.
Different ways to meditate before bed
For your bedtime meditation, use silence, music, or talks. You can begin with guided meditations to ease you into the practice and have a teacher help you go through simple breathing techniques and mind exercises. There are many resources for guided meditations online, including phone apps, which offer free sessions that cater to any type of practitioner. What works for you will depend on your preferences, so try a few and investigate what you find most comfortable to achieve the best sleep results.
It's also worth noting that meditating with an app is not an excuse to browse through your phone. Blue and white light emitted from gadgets can actually make it harder for you to fall asleep! If you're too tempted, connect your phone to speakers or headphones, and set it aside.
Meditation will not only help you sleep soundly at night, but it can also change your mindset, uplift your mood, and create positive changes in your brain. Taking all of this into account, it’s no wonder that meditation is getting so much attention as one of the best practices that you can incorporate into your daily life.