In the modern-day world, busy lifestyles can often get in the way of self-care, and we forget to take a step back and concentrate on looking after our mental well-being.
Quite often, people with a lot going on, whether at work, in their home life, or a combination of both, struggle to switch off when it comes to bedtime. Your mind might still be buzzing with the day’s activities.
You might still be thinking about that email you forgot to send or be worrying about a meeting or an interview the following morning, or you might simply feel overwhelmed with your upcoming calendar.
Stress and anxiety are significant causes of people not being able to drift off to sleep at night, and this can be damaging to your physical and mental well-being. Sometimes, it can even lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia.
The good news is there are ways to learn to switch off these intruding thoughts interfering with your sleep quality. The number one solution is sleep meditation.
Throughout this guide, I will take you through various steps and tell you about the different meditation techniques for a night of quality sleep.
Meditation For Sleep Quality
Meditation is a relaxation method for the body and mind, which initiates changes in your mental balance and physiological state.
Studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness significantly increase your sleep quality, help you to fall asleep quicker, and give you an all-around better sense of well-being.
Meditating before bed is an instrumental technique that can positively affect your sleep hygiene by reducing the chance of sleep disorders such as insomnia, lessening fatigue, and increasing deep sleep.
If you already suffer from sleep conditions such as insomnia, then meditation is a proven way to improve symptoms without the need for medication.
How Does Meditation Improve Sleep?
Learning how to meditate for sleep can help in several ways, such as improving the dominance of the autonomic nervous system and improving your state of relaxation. It can also help with the following:
- Trigger the brain’s ability to control sleep
- Slowed Breathing
- Increase serotonin
- Increase melatonin
- Pain relief
- Lower the heart rate
- Reduce blood pressure
- Improved circadian rhythm
- Improve sleep schedule
Meditation is an excellent relaxation technique that can bring inner peace and reduce any overwhelming feelings of stress.
Although it may take some time to get your techniques correct, once you have learned a way that suits you, meditation will bring you an overall increased feeling of calmness and peace.
Meditation Techniques For Sleep
While one technique for mediating might work for some people, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. It can take some research, practice, and patience to find one that works for you and your lifestyle.
When you think of meditation, you might automatically think about sitting cross-legged with your hands in a mudras position and your eyes closed. You might be doubting whether or not this is something you can get on board with.
There are many meditation techniques that I am going to be telling you about shortly. All of the below techniques work in different ways to make you feel more relaxed and, in turn, can enhance your sleep quality.
1. Guided Meditation
Guided meditation can be done one-on-one with a meditation specialist or, more commonly, with a video or audio recording. There are now hundreds of apps and YouTube videos that can take you through several guided meditations that will help you navigate your thoughts, adjust your breathing, and elucidate physical and emotional sensations.
Another form of guided meditation is done with imagery, such as visualizations of something you find peaceful. This could be lying under the stars or watching a river passing from a cozy log cabin in the woods. The idea is to use all of your senses to picture the scene; imagine you can smell the water and hear the birds in the trees, for example.
Mindfulness meditation is mainly focused on the present moment. It allows you to feel free without worrying about judgment from yourself and others.
You need a quiet, uncluttered, relaxing space to practice mindfulness meditation. Turn off all electronic devices, and lie down somewhere you feel is private and comfortable.
Take deep breaths, inhale for 6-10 seconds, hold your breath for 4-6 seconds, and release your breath for 6-10 seconds. As you do this, focus on breathing, notice the inhale and the air entering your body, and feel the exhale, relax your entire body as you release your breath. Concentrate on one body part at a time. If you feel cramping or tense in any part of your body, focus on that body part as you inhale and exhale, and aim to relax it.
Repeat this breathing exercise five times, and only try to think about your body and breathing. If other thoughts begin to creep in (which they will, especially when you’re new to meditating,) quickly push them to the back of your mind and return to the breathing exercises.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique
Progressive muscle relaxation can help with numerous conditions and improve sleep. For example, it can relieve muscle tension, distract from negative or anxious thoughts, and put your body and mind into a state of pure relaxation.
To practice this technique, I find it best to lie in a comfortable position, free from distraction.
Below are some simple steps to getting started:
- Lie in a comfortable position on a sofa or bed, and breathe for one minute, deeply, but at your regular pace.
- As you inhale, tense your feet and toes, and as you exhale, relax them again.
- Breathe deeply again, but this time tense your leg muscles and release the tension as you exhale.
- Do the same with your upper leg muscles and then your abdomen and lower back, moving to your chest and upper back. Continue to your hands, lower and upper arms, shoulders, and neck. Finally, please do the same with your face, scrunch it up tightly as you inhale, and relax as you exhale.
For each muscle, keep it tense for around one minute, or as long as you can, and repeat the whole process three times.
You might not think of yoga as a meditation technique or just think it’s only an exercise for super flexible people to practice during classes.
However, yoga has been proven to improve your state of mindfulness and relaxation, and you don’t need to have the ability to put your feet above your head to practice it.
Yoga concentrates on focus, breathing, stretching, and engaging the core and diaphragm.
If you do a quick YouTube search on yoga for beginners, you’ll find hundreds of options that suit people of all abilities.
Not only does yoga increase your relaxation, but practicing yoga exercises before bed has many other benefits, such as relieving stress and tension, reducing the risk of chronic health conditions, managing sleep disorders, and improving sleep quality.
This traditional Chinese meditation technique focuses on deep breathing, slow-moving positions, and focus.
Qigong is thought to significantly improve the energy flow in the mind and body ; however, there is no scientific evidence yet to suggest this. This is because, currently, there isn’t much lab research done on the practices. However, it is believed that Qigong can help all aspects of life quality, including stress reduction, sleep quality, stress and anxiety, and depression.
As with anything, mediation may have risks depending on your current medical health and mental state. Although these risks are unlikely, and only a small percentage of people may experience them, it’s worth considering conditions such as PTSD, addiction, injury, panic disorders, or mental health afflictions.
The risks associated with meditation might include the following:
- Fear of loss of control
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or anger
- Negative and intrusive thoughts
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling disorientated
- Panic attacks
Learn to Meditate – The Basics
If you’re only interested in learning the basics of meditation but aren’t sure how to get started, the easiest place to begin is with breathing exercises. Follow the steps below to get yourself into the habit of basic meditation.
- Create a dark, silent environment that is comfortable and free from distraction.
- Turn off all electronic devices.
- Finding a comfortable position, seated or lying down, are acceptable.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Inhale through the nose, and feel your midsection rise.
- Slowly exhale, and feel your stomach sink. Your chest should remain still.
- Repeat this process for ten breaths, using your diaphragm to control your breathing.
- Keep your mind clear, and focus only on breathing. If your mind starts to wander, quickly disperse any thoughts and return them to the practice at hand.
Some people might struggle or find it challenging to meditate in silence, in which case, try researching some calming sounds, such as classical music, nature sound effects, or meditation soundtracks.
The bottom line is if you plan to introduce meditation to your sleep schedule, it’s likely to be more good than bad. While it’s true that a small percentage of people might experience adverse effects, for the most part, meditation for sleep will only have an advantage for your life and sleep quality.
If you’re unsure where to start, or feel intimidated by the different techniques, start with the basics. Try this a couple of times a week, and be patient. Most people find it challenging when they first begin practicing meditation; it does take a small amount of skill and perseverance. Don’t expect to get it right away, but don’t worry; with practice, you will master the art of meditation.
Lastly, if you’ve recently suffered an injury, be extra cautious when practicing meditation, especially techniques involving stretching or tensing muscles. These forms of meditation could hinder your recovery or cause further damage.