If you are experiencing trouble falling asleep, you’re not the only one! Over 35% of adults around the world regularly experience this and, for many, sleeping difficulty is related to stress or anxiety. In today’s very full-on life, sometimes it just isn’t easy to switch off!
Research has shown that meditation can help as a relaxation technique. It can quiet the mind and body and when done before bedtime can help promote a feeling of calmness.
What is meditation?
Meditation isn’t only for those who enjoy sitting in a disciplined yoga pose for several hours. Sometimes we are doing a form of meditation without even being aware of it – for example watching waves on the beach, or clouds in the sky, or sitting quietly and enjoying the view during a walk. It helps to relax your mind and body and stop you feeling too busy with thoughts. Even the act of walking itself can help, especially when out and about in the fresh air. The repetitive and steady rhythm of putting one foot in front of another can help to achieve a sense of calmness. Try to be aware of all the colours and textures around you. Using specific meditation techniques can help you to replicate these moments and relax before bedtime.
So how can meditation help with sleep?
In a 2015 study conducted by the American Medical Association assessed how mindfulness meditation could help a group of adults with moderate sleep issues. By the end of the study, the group experienced fewer insomnia symptoms – and as a result less daytime fatigue. According to the researchers, meditation helped with relaxation response and improved control of the autonomic nervous system, with reduces how easily you are awakened. It also may increase the ‘sleep hormone’, Melatonin, reduce heart rate, decrease blood pressure and activate parts of the brain that control sleep.
How can I meditate?
The great thing about meditation is that you don’t need special tools or equipment – just a few minutes. It’s important to establish a routine and by doing so you are more likely to enjoy its benefits. Find a quiet area and get comfy – you can even lie down if it’s close to bedtime. Be patient with yourself as meditation is a practice, start by doing 3 to 5 minutes before bed and slowly increase the time to 15 or 20 minutes.
Are there specific meditation techniques that can help with sleep?
According to Healthline, there are three specific techniques that tend to work well for sleep: Mindfulness Meditation, Guided Meditation and Body Scan Meditation. We’ve put some tips below.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
First, remove all distractions from your room (including your phone!). Lie down in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing. Inhale for 10 counts, hold your breath for 10 counts and exhale for 10 counts. Repeat this cycle 5 times. Then inhale and tense your body. Pause, relax and exhale. Repeat this cycle 5 times. Notice your breath and body – if a body part feels tight, consciously relax it and keep focusing on your breathing.
What is a Guided Meditation?
This is when another person leads you through each step of meditation. They might include visualisation of images of sounds. You can find recordings of guided meditations on podcasts, apps and websites. Pick a recording and dim the light of your phone or device then start the recording. Lie down in bed and breathe deeply and slowly. Focus on the person’s voice and if your mind wanders, re-focus on the recording.
What is a Body Scan Meditation?
This involves focusing on each part of your body, relaxing your muscles as you do so. Remove all distractions from your room, including your phone. Lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe slowly, noticing the weight of your body on the bed. Starting with your face and moving slowly down the length of your body, relaxing your muscles down each part and being aware of how that feels as you relax.
Another important element in helping to sleep better is your bedding. Duvets that are made from natural fibres, such as wool, are breathable. Wool is temperature regulating so will work with your core body temperature to keep it balanced throughout the night – which means you are less likely to wake up throughout the night. For more information on how wool bedding can help to achieve a healthier sleep, check out our blog.
Although meditation can help to improve your sleep, it doesn’t replace good sleep practices. This includes trying to follow a regular sleep schedule, turning off all electronics, keeping your bedroom cool, quiet and dark and avoiding caffeine and heavy meals before bedtime. Always seek advice from your doctor if you are experiencing prolonged bouts of insomnia. If you have specific mental health issues, then it is best to talk to your doctor before trying meditation.