Imagine you’ve had a long and draining day. You crawl into bed utterly exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep. Your body is comfortable. Your mattress feels just right. And yet, your mind will not allow you to rest.
This frustrating state is what we call “wired and tired.” Racing thoughts, which can feel impossible to turn off, have the power to rob us of the restorative sleep we need to live our happiest, healthiest lives. However, learning to control our minds and thought patterns the same way in which we control our diets or other habits and routines is essential for optimal health and quality sleep.
But … if your own thoughts are the problem, where do you start? How can you control your mind next time racing thoughts show up in the middle of the night? Two words: sleep meditations.
How Meditation Helps Your Body Sleep
Meditation is a powerful tool to promote better sleep. Many of the sleep disturbances we experience are a result of the body’s stress response. Meditation is a practice that evokes a relaxation response – the opposite of stress – so that we can learn to control and even let go of stress and worry. Learning to activate the relaxation response through meditation can help reduce many stress-related ailments, like:
Meditation also improves control of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates how easily the body is awakened. What’s more, meditation can increase melatonin, a hormone that helps prepare the body for sleep. Meditation can further help with sleep by:
- Increasing serotonin
- Lowering cortisol levels
- Slowing the heart rate and breathing
Mindfulness and Other Effective Sleep Meditations
Great news: meditation is safe, free and effective! There are many different types of meditation and finding the practice that works best for you will directly influence its effectiveness in improving your sleep. Even self-compassion can be a form of meditation.
However, with significant research supporting the benefits of mindfulness meditation for sleep, this can be an excellent starting point. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing completely on the present moment. This is achieved by increasing your awareness of your consciousness, breathing and body.
Mindfulness meditation requires focusing on your breath and bringing your mind’s attention to the present without allowing it to drift to the past or to present concerns. Try focusing on a single repeated word (such as “relax”) and simply taking a breath to refocus whenever your mind begins to wander. Other common sleep meditations include:
This is when another person guides you through each step and may instruct you to breathe or relax your body in specific ways. Guided meditation may also ask you to visualize certain images or incorporate certain soothing sounds. Today, there are many
meditation apps, podcasts, videos, and websites for guided meditation to listen to before bed.
Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditation requires focusing on different areas of the body and scanning them for any notable sensations, pain or tension to release. This act of focus and acknowledgment promotes relaxation to reduce pain and tension for better sleep.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Combined with other meditation techniques, deep breathing can significantly improve relaxation. For instance, the 4-8-7 breathing method can help you learn to focus on and control their breath. This involves breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and breathing out for eight seconds. Meditative movements such as yoga, tai chi, and simple stretches can also improve sleep.
Best Meditation Tips for Sleep
Meditation can be done anywhere, anytime. Like most things, the more you meditate, the better you will become and the more benefits you will receive. Incorporating the below tips will ensure you are getting the most out of your meditation practice:
- Create a calm environment without disturbances
- Change into loose clothing or pajamas (organic cotton is best!)
- Dim the lights or turn them off completely
- Find a comfortable position
- Close your eyes
If you are utilizing your phone for guided meditation, try turning off notifications and reducing the brightness and volume. You may also incorporate things like essential oils into your practice for added relaxation. Lastly, remember to be patient with yourself. If your mind wanders, show yourself grace and gently redirect it back to your breath or area of focus.
Meditation is a practice, and it requires daily commitment. Begin by meditating for 3-5 minutes before bed each night. Over time, you may gradually increase to 30 minutes or more and even meditate throughout your day. The wonderful thing about meditation is that it does not involve special equipment or tools. Everything you need is already within you, and all you need are a few minutes.
Get more tips on how to recognize your body’s sleep readiness cues and how to better use your natural circadian rhythm. Of course, if you struggle with sleep, it may also be time to upgrade your sleep environment with a certified organic mattress and pillows.