Sleep Deprivation is something that affects people all over the globe. According to recent research, 35-50% of adults worldwide regularly experience insomnia symptoms.
Unfortunately, we often don’t help ourselves when it comes to our sleep. When striving for better physical and mental health, we’ll focus on eating well and exercising (which are both extremely important), while neglecting the crucial role of healthy sleep.
Thankfully though, the importance of sleep is becoming more and more widely known. In this article, we’ll delve into how you can access the benefits of sleep meditation, by focusing on these key areas:
- The reasons you can’t sleep at night
- The benefits of meditation for improving sleep
- Which forms of sleep meditation work best
- How to practise deep sleep meditation
Ready to get stuck into it?
Let’s get started.
Why Can’t I Get A Good Night’s Sleep?
There are a number of things that can prevent people from sleeping well.
Often, it will be assumed that the number of hours you’re sleeping for is the most important factor here, but that’s not always the case. Healthy sleep actually has more to do with the quality of your rest than the quantity of hours you’re out for.
Sleep meditations are designed to tap into your inner ability to be restful and calm. Much of this comes down to settling the mind, which is a pretty crucial precursor to resting the body. The thing is, this can be really difficult.
Unfortunately, our minds are not built to be healthy and relaxed — we’re programmed to focus on the negatives. Over the centuries, human evolution has dictated that only a state of constant psychological suffering, worry and anxiety will allow us to survive.
This was necessary during prehistoric times, when the caveman mentality of constantly scouting for danger and hunting for more food, water, or a better house helped people prosper. But today, this negativity bias manifests as anxiety, stress, dissatisfaction and greed.
Mindless screen time and heavy technology use also have a negative effect on our ability to sleep at night. One study showed that the more devices an individual uses during the day, the more difficulty they may have getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Other research found that 90% of Americans use technology during the hour before bed, while plenty of us even sleep with our mobile phones under our pillows or next to our faces.
If you feel like your bedtime relationship with your phone is getting unhealthy, check out our article on Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and How To Stop It.
Negative mental chatter and worry are likely to be at their strongest when we’re trying to get to sleep at night. This is because the mind is still, and we’re not occupied by any physical activity. For that reason, our brains can begin to cause us problems.
This is exactly what prevents many people from getting a good night’s sleep. So what can we do to counteract this process?
What Are the benefits of sleep meditation?
Meditation is scientifically proven to help lower heart rate and blood pressure, encourage slower breathing, and reduce stress and anxiety. It’s hardly surprising then, that many people are turning to it in their search for a good night’s sleep.
According to Healthline, meditation causes a range of physiological changes that can help initiate sleep. Here are a few of the key ways in which meditation affects the body:
- Reduces heart rate
- Decreases blood pressure
- Increases melatonin (the sleep hormone)
- Increases serotonin (the precursor to melatonin)
- Improves control of the autonomic nervous system
- Activates parts of the brain responsible for controlling sleep
These benefits can occur during a meditation session, but they can also arise outside of formal practice, when you’re trying to fall asleep. And by the same token, the benefits of sleep meditation manifest in all areas of life.
Sleep deprivation can cause impairments in short and long term memory, decision making, attention, and reaction time. People who are sleep deprived also tend to drive more dangerously and make more errors at work.
Increased and better sleep can cut out these risks while lowering stress levels, improving mental clarity and memory and boosting our immune systems.
Sleeping well can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. This is because your brain uses periods of sleep to store memories and experiences from each day; however, if those moments of rest aren’t coming, memory can become stunted.
Okay, so getting a good night’s sleep is seriously important. But you probably could have guessed that already — how exactly can meditation help you get the rest you need?
How Can Meditation help improve sleep?
Within the broad spectrum of meditation, there are a number of tools and techniques designed to help calm the body and mind and let go of the various stresses and thoughts that have piled up over the course of the day.
Mindfulness meditation (perhaps the most popular form of meditation today) has been shown to help fight insomnia and improve sleep, while other disciplines like mantra meditation can help instil peace of mind and thereby make rest easier.
There are, however, a few techniques and practices that are particularly useful for improving sleep. Let’s look into them.
Performing a body scan exercise before going to sleep can help re-anchor your focus to the present moment, by encouraging you to note various different physical sensations and become more aware of the body.
This technique involves following these steps:
- First, become aware of the sensation in the top of your head. Notice whether there is any pain or discomfort, whether a sensation is hot or cold, light or heavy.
- Gradually, move your awareness down your entire body, through your torso, your legs, and down to your feet.
- As you scan your body, try to notice any negative emotions and tensions you can feel, and try to pin them down to a particular bodily area.
- Make an effort to breathe slowly while noticing these sensations, using the breathe to ease any tension and discomfort.
- When you’re ready, and have moved through each part of the body, simply relax, and breathe normally.
This practice can be used to relax and settle both the body and mind, reducing stress and anxiety and increasing present moment awareness.
There are a number of breathing techniques that can be used to support healthy sleeping patterns, one of which is diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a muscle is at the base of your lungs which plays a key role in breathing, and channelling it can have immense benefits. Let’s look at how it’s done.
- Lie on your bed, with your knees bent.
- Place a pillow under your head and beneath your knees for support.
- Place one hand on your upper chest, with the other hand on your stomach just below your rib cage.
- Breathe in through your nose, focusing on your breathing and drawing the breath down to your stomach. Allow the hand on your stomach to rise with your breath. Your chest should remain still.
- Slowly exhale, allowing your stomach to fall back down. Your hand on your upper chest should remain still.
Guided Meditation Sessions
Audiobooks, websites and apps such as Headspace offer a wide array of different guided meditation sessions designed to help out struggling sleepers. Whether it’s for 10 minutes or an hour, you may find that the addition of a soothing, supportive voice offering a few tips on how to settle your mind can provide you with a real lift.
Practising meditative techniques like these before bed can go a long way when it comes to helping you nod off. But if you still feel like you need to go further, we’ve got a deep sleep meditation exercise that could be exactly what you’re looking for.
How to practice Deep sleep meditation
What exactly is deep sleep meditation?
Put simply, it’s a way of improving your sleeping habits by inducing a sleep-like state in which you are still conscious and aware. This meditative state can be practised both before bed and during the day, and it can bring a deep sense of relaxation and stillness.
Accessing this state between waking and sleeping, which is sometimes known as Yoga Nidra, can help you generate inner peace and reduce the stresses and anxieties that are keeping you awake at night.
Deep Sleep Meditation involves following these steps:
- Loosen your body and settle into a comfortable space.
- Dedicate a specific period of time to your practice, maybe 10 or 20 minutes.
- Allow your mind to visit each part of your body in turn, helping them slowly relax. Begin at the top of the body and move down.
- Breathe slowly, through your nostrils only. This helps increase feelings of relaxation.
- Think about happy memories, and positive scenes. Try to encourage your tensions to slowly move away.
Following these steps within a deep sleep meditation exercise can have a significant impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep. This is true whether you practise immediately before bed, or earlier on in the day.
As we’ve discussed elsewhere in this article, there are a number of meditative practices that can help improve your ability to sleep at night. It’s worth trying a few techniques and seeing what works for you.
If you’re unsure about how much meditation can really help you, remember that it’s an extremely broad spectrum, and there are loads of methods you can use that you may not even consider to be meditative. For more on this, check out our article on 8 state-changing alternatives to meditation.