Getting enough sleep at night can help to alleviate stress, but that doesn’t help much if you’re too stressed to sleep, which can interfere with healthy sleep. Daily demands and anxiety can keep you up at night and make it difficult to get the sleep you need to stay physically and mentally healthy. If you’ve ever found yourself lying awake at night rehashing the day or worrying about tomorrow, you’re losing sleep to stress — and losing sleep can make you more stressed. That’s where meditation for sleep comes in.
How Meditation Can Help You Sleep
About 85 percent of U.S. employees report losing sleep due to work-related stress — but you don’t have to be one of them. Meditation triggers what’s known as the relaxation response, which is marked by a slower heart rate, decreased muscle tension, slowed brain wave patterns, and lower blood pressure. This response can mitigate insomnia, as well as anxiety and depression. It can even genetically counteract the wear of stress on the body.
Mindfulness meditation can be particularly helpful in improving sleep problems. This practice has shown to result in increased sleep quality, improving factors including total sleep time, sleep latency, total wake time, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, and sleep quality. Deep relaxation techniques such as Yoga Nidra and mindfulness meditation during the day can improve sleep at night.
How You Can Use Meditation to Sleep Better
1. Make meditation part of your bedtime routine.
Maintaining a regular bedtime routine can help you get to sleep faster. When you do the same thing each night, you train your brain and body to expect to go to sleep soon. The more you do it, the more ingrained the relaxation and sleep habits will become.
Make your bedtime routine calming and relaxing by introducing mindfulness meditation such as progressive muscle relaxation. Make it the last part of your routine as you lay down on your mattress (and maybe even fall asleep while you’re meditating). When you practice progressive muscle relaxation, you’ll lay down and breathe deeply, observing your inhales and exhales. Contract one muscle group at a time for at least five seconds, then relax it for up to 30 seconds, inhaling before tightening and exhaling during relaxation. Focus your attention on the feeling of tension and relaxation.
2. Gently push thoughts away with counting meditation.
If you’re finding yourself preoccupied with thoughts as you try to fall asleep, shift your focus to numbers instead, similar to classic sheep counting. Simply start counting to 100, or as far as you need to relax and drift off to sleep without stressful thoughts. If your mind begins to wander, acknowledge that you’re thinking, and bring your focus back on counting each time.
3. Use mindful breathing to resettle during a restless night.
Waking up in the middle of the night can be disruptive, especially when stressful thoughts creep in making it difficult to fall back asleep. Mindful breathing, such as the 4-7-8 method, can be like a tranquillizer for your nervous system. It can help you relax and get back to sleep, and this practice gets more effective and powerful as you continually practice and repeat it. With the 4-7-8 method of mindful breathing, simply:
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of seven
- Exhale through your mount for a count of eight
- Repeat until you feel relaxed and fall back to asleep
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