The benefits of Meditation For Sleep
Regularly sleeping fewer than seven hours per night increases the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, unhealthy eating habits that can lead to other chronic illnesses. Sleep deprivation can cause impairments in short and long term memory), decision making), attention), and reaction time).
Increased and better sleep, on the other hand, can lower levels of stress, and improve mental clarity and memory. Improved sleep also affects our immune systems), encourages better eating habits and weight management.
Why might you choose to meditate before bed? Especially if you have insomnia or difficulty falling asleep, meditation has been shown to improve the quality and efficiency of sleep, how quickly you fall asleep, and how long you can stay awake during the day.
Completing a meditation for sleep before bed can help you to fall asleep faster; once asleep, you’re likely to sleep more soundly, too.
Meditation for quality sleep – during the day
Sleep falls into a unique category in that good quality Zzzs require much more than doing a simple meditation in bed. Restful sleep largely depends on having a rested mind, and so the preparation can begin with your mindset … during the day. More often than not, our issues around sleep are rooted in our thinking processes.
Headspace’s 30-day Sleep course (available only to Headspace subscribers), for example, isn’t designed to send you to sleep in the moment; it’s designed to change your relationship with sleep. By gradually training the mind in a specific way — day by day, for a month — you gradually create an environment conducive to a good night’s rest.
It’s recommended that the 30-day Sleep course be used during the day, in conjunction with the single sleep meditation at bedtime. The course trains the mind for long-term, sustainable change; the single meditation is a specific exercise to send you to sleep.
What to expect when meditating to fall asleep
Meditation for sleep should be approached the same way we approach meditation in the daytime: gently, with a relaxed focus. When we allow the body to relax, and allow the mind to drift off, we do so in a soft, gentle way, not trying to force sleep, otherwise we encourage more thoughts and, possibly, some tension. As much as possible, allow yourself to be led by the guidance, not thinking too much about the technique or instructions.
Before you begin your sleep meditation: lie flat on your back on the bed, take a few deep breaths, and close your eyes, allowing the body to begin powering down. If you’re using a guided meditation, follow the instructions. If practicing unguided meditation, progress at your own pace. The more you practice this type of meditation, the more likely you are to build a quiet and restful mind that can sleep at ease.
Guided sleep meditations generally employ a number of different techniques:
- Breathing exercises. This involves regulating your breath — counting breaths, for example — and eventually slowing your breathing down a bit, which signals to the body that it’s time for sleep.
- Mindful body scanning. As you lie on your bed, you may be asked to notice the breath and the places where your body is touching your bed. Then, starting at the toes, you can think of “switching off” any effort in each part of your body, part by part.
- Visualizations. A visualization asks you to imagine an image or scene, then it takes you into a mental state that is similar to hypnosis. Gratitude: Some sleep-focused meditation programs focus on appreciation meditation and loving kindness meditation, which ask you to focus on gratitude.
- Counting. To slow the mind down and release you from cyclical patterns of thought, you may be invited to count slowly: starting at 10 (or even 1,000) counting backwards to one, then starting at 10 again.
- Silence. A narrator or guide may ask you to lie calmly in silence for up to a few minutes, providing very little guidance, as a way to focus after a long and busy day.
- Movement-based meditation. If you’re being guided through a sleep-based meditation in person, you may be invited to participate in mindful movement practices like tai chi, low-impact postures or light stretching.
- Retracing your day. Reviewing your day, in detail, action-by-action, can be a great way to distract your mind just enough to drift off. Starting from getting up in the morning, through showering and having breakfast, spend 20-25 seconds on each of the day’s events, however small. This is great way to begin powering down, before a breathing or visualization meditation.
A simple meditation to aid sleep
If you wake up in the night, racing thoughts can contribute to keeping you awake. Your mind is whirring away, worrying about all kinds of things that might happen. A simple meditation based on counting the breaths can really help.
Start by scanning down through your body, looking for areas of tension and relaxation. Then begin counting your breaths, (1 for an in-breath, 2 for an out-breath, 3 for an in-breath and so on, up to 10). If your mind wanders, just bring it back to counting your breath. The idea is to step away from the worried thinking, and give your mind a different object to concentrate on for a while so you can fall back asleep.
Source: Meditation for sleep – Headspace