If you’re like most people, as soon as your head hits the pillow, instead of easing into a deep sleep, your mind starts to race. You’re stressing about tomorrow and the tasks that are constantly piling up on your desk.
Sleep is supposed to be a time of rest and recovery, but it’s the opposite for many people. In recent years, though, research has shed light on the effectiveness of practising meditation to get a good night’s sleep.
Studies show that meditation can help people suffering from sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. The trouble is that most people have never tried meditation and have no idea where to start.
This article provides practical and easy-to-implement tips to help you meditate and get to sleep.
Four ways meditation help sleep
Meditation is a relaxation technique designed to improve the body, mind and spirit. Most strategies, such as tai chi and yoga, combine both physical movements with mental and emotional tasks like deep breathing.
Mediation is an excellent and effective way to rid your mind of negative thoughts and feelings and replace them with positive ones. This is notably important when it comes to helping people get a good night’s sleep.
Focusing on being in the ‘now‘ can improve your mental outlook and help put things into perspective. Remember, most things in life that seem like big problems aren’t that important. As the adage goes, ‘don’t make mountains out of molehills.’
Research has shown that some types of meditation can reduce pain or, at the least, help people manage their pain better. This is particularly important for people who may be struggling to get to sleep because of chronic pain.
The diaphragm is a muscle that sits just below the lungs and is typically used in meditation techniques to help control and slow breathing. By focusing on slowing your breathing, it’s much easier to relieve stress and anxiety.
4Reduced stress and anxiety
Relaxation helps to reduce blood pressure and lower your heart rate, both of which are critical in helping relieve stress. Some research has shown that meditation can significantly help to reduce stress hormone levels.
Common methods for meditating
Although there are several different types of meditation with varying techniques and philosophies, most of them have a few things in common.
Generally speaking, meditation involves focusing on a specific phrase, image or technique designed to slow your breathing and reduce stress and tension. When negative thoughts pop into your head, you’re redirected to your breathing.
Most meditation strategies require you to find a room or outside space that is quiet and free from distractions. This makes it much easier to clear your mind from the stresses and tension of everyday life.
Slow and controlled breathing is vital when it comes to unwinding and calming down. Nearly all meditation strategies instruct you to focus on using your diaphragm muscles rather than your chest muscles to slow your breathing.
Last but not least is finding a comfortable position. This can vary for people, but sitting upright in a comfortable chair is typically the best position for deep meditation. That said, lying down or holding a yoga posture is also commonly practised.
Four styles of meditation
There are many different types of meditation that have been practised through the ages. Here are four of the most common.
Mindful meditation is one of the most common, popular and effective ways to focus on the “now.” It allows you to experience your thoughts, feelings and emotions in an honest yet non-judgemental way. Similar to other calming techniques, mindful meditation can help reduce stress before bedtime.
Guided meditation generally comes in the form of listening to an audiobook or some kind of instructional voice recording. For instance, the voice recording will ‘guide‘ participants through the various stages and provide instructions on tracking breathing and emotions.
Guided meditation also comes as ‘guided visualization,’ which entails picturing yourself relaxing at your happy place, such as a secluded tropical paradise or, in my case, the cycling Hall of Fame.
Studies have shown a connection between guided meditation and improved sleep quality.
Probably the most well-known of all calming strategies, tai chi involves gentle, smooth and flowing movements. Tai chi initially began as a martial art, but in recent years has been adopted by meditation practitioners. Tai chi is popular in Asian nations, including China and Taiwan.
Like Tai chi, yoga combines breathing and mindfulness techniques with slow and rhythmical physical movements. There are several types of yoga, with each form having its own specific movements, techniques and philosophies.
Research on yoga and its connection with sleep is somewhat limited, although research suggests that yoga positively benefits sleep quality and duration. Yoga is also great for improving fitness and functional movement.
Want better sleep? Try this
The perception is that mediation takes years and years of practice to master, and while this may be true, we all need to start somewhere. Below is a simple yet effective bedtime meditation activity for beginners.
1. Start by switching off all your electronic devices, dim the lights and make sure the room you’re in is at a comfortable temperature.
2. Now sit in a nice comfy chair and put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your tummy.
3. Start by slowly breathing through your nose, ensuring the hand on your chest rises while the hand on your tummy remains still.
4. Continue breathing 10 times, focusing on slow and controlled breathing.
5. Finally, if and when a bad thought comes, acknowledge it, clear your mind and return to breathing.
Like most things worth pursuing, meditation is not easy, but once you’ve begun to master it, the benefits are plentiful and go far beyond getting a good night’s sleep.
Sum it up
Stress and anxiety have become natural parts of everyday life in today’s fast-paced society. The fact is that most of us struggle to get a good night’s sleep, and meditation may just be the remedy we’ve all been looking for
Meditation relieves stress and eases your mind. For many people who have struggled with sleep, mindful meditation has been a ‘game changer.’ Making meditation an integral part of your bedtime routine is an effective way to get a better night’s sleep.
So whether it’s yoga or guided meditation, take the time to prioritise your physical, spiritual and emotional well-being.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more
Don’t put your meditation practice away. Below is a 10-minute meditation protocol that will help you relax and get into a state of deep rest very quickly. This protocol was recorded by neuroscientist Andrew Huberman. He explains what you need to do step-by-step – to achieve deep relaxation, mood enhancement, and sleep improvement.
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