Mindfulness meditation is the act of intentionally moving your awareness to the present moment. With a long history in multiple religious traditions, mindfulness is now a mainstream practice popular worldwide. Meditation practices can be silent or they can be coupled with movement or sound. Meditation can be helpful for managing anxiety, stress, and difficulty sleeping.
How Sleep Meditation Works
Meditation likely promotes sleep by reducing pain sensitivity and stress, both of which can disturb sleep. The research around meditation and how it works to reduce anxiety, depression, and pain is ongoing.
Studies have found that the practice of meditation reduces pain-related activity in the thalamus, which is a small sensory structure in the brain. Meditation likely affects multiple parts of the brain simultaneously, helping to reduce discomfort by changing the perception of it.
Benefits of Sleep Meditation
Meditation has many potential benefits for sleep, as it has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and pain.
Overall, reducing stress may help you get better sleep. Sleep meditation usually incorporates soothing, calming sounds or music, which can contribute to a relaxing environment. Some studies have shown a link between mindfulness meditation and improved sleep.
Sleep meditation may also help you adjust to a new sleep schedule or sleeping arrangement. Traveling often and staying in hotels can be disruptive and impact your sleep. Jet lag and shift work are two common factors that can lead to sleep disturbances and short-term insomnia. Meditation has been shown to have a mild impact on certain symptoms of insomnia.
Who Should Use Sleep Meditation
Sleep meditation may benefit those who have difficulty falling asleep. One study of people with insomnia reported a reduction in time spent lying awake, psychological arousal, and overall symptoms severity. Older adults in particular may benefit from sleep meditation. Research suggests that engaging in mindfulness practices for 10 to 30 minutes a day can help older adults improve their sleep.
There is little to no research on how sleep mindfulness meditation might impact other sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Sleep mindfulness practices may not help you achieve better sleep if you’re struggling with these sleep disorders. However, meditation may help you feel more relaxed and calm before bed and could be a great addition to your nightly routine.
Ultimately, sleep meditation is available to anyone, not only people with sleep troubles. If you want to feel more relaxed, calm, and centered before bed, sleep meditation might be for you.
How to Try Sleep Meditation Before Bed
Sleep meditation can be as simple as breathing in while counting to four and breathing out while counting to four. Four by four breathing, or box breathing, is a common quick and effective meditation practice that you can practice anywhere, anytime.
If you would prefer guided sleep meditations, you may want to consider sleep meditation apps, videos, or playlists.
Sleep Meditation Apps
Meditation and mindfulness apps are popular, and there is a wide variety available. When looking for a mindfulness app, consider the following questions:
- Am I willing to pay for a subscription?
- Do I want guided meditations, calming sounds, or both?
- Do I want the ability to access meditations offline?
- Do I want the app to track my sleep?
- Do I want to be able to journal my thoughts and progress in the app?
Once you have more of an idea of what type of app you are looking for, your options might not feel so overwhelming. Some of the most popular sleep apps include:
- Headspace: Headspace integrates with an Apple Watch to track meditation progress. It offers meditation for sleep as well as stress, focus, resilience, and sadness. You can use a free version or upgrade for more features.
- Slumber: Slumber offers guided sleep meditations, as well as calming nature sounds and music. You can use Slumber offline if you’re away from WiFi.
- Calm: Calm is an app most known for its soothing stories told by famous celebrities. However, Calm also offers guided sleep meditations and breathing exercises. It does not track your sleep and requires a subscription for full access.
- Buddhify: Buddhify offers over 200 meditations, including sleep, stress, and pain meditations. It can sync with an Apple Watch.
Sleep Meditation Videos and Playlists
Guided sleep meditation videos can be found online through YouTube. Additionally, you can find both guided and unguided meditation playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora Radio. It may take some experimentation to find what types of videos and playlists work best for you.
Additional Tips for Better Sleep
Creating and maintaining good sleep hygiene also helps improve sleep quality. If you are struggling with getting good rest, take an inventory of your entire pre-sleep routine. You may be able to get more better sleep by incorporating healthy habits:
- Make your room as comfortable and dark as possible. Investing in a good mattress and pillows, as well as darkening shades, may help promote a more relaxing sleeping arrangement.
- Make an effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Put away phones and other electronics 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
- Read a book to help relax your mind.
- Take a hot shower before bed.
- Sip on a hot herbal tea at least an hour before bedtime.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Sleep
For some, guided sleep meditations and good sleep hygiene may not be enough. If you’re having sleeping issues that do not seem to become better by changing your routine or taking over-the-counter sleep aids, then it may be time to talk to your doctor. You and your doctor can explore sleep medications and other treatments that may be more impactful than meditations.
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