Mighty mindfulness: the power of meditation for sleep

Mediating before bed can be a powerful way to wind down

Many of us struggle when it comes to falling and staying asleep. In fact, research from Frontiers in Psychiatry reveals that as many as 35-50 per cent of adults around the world regularly experience symptoms of insomnia.

So any solution which promises to ease our transition into sleep is welcome, but unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution for sleep loss. What works for some of us won’t work for others. In spite of that, a growing number of people are discovering meditation to be a powerful asset for improving our sleep patterns.

A lot of sleep difficulty is related to stress, and meditation aims to tackle stress by helping you unwind in both your body and your mind, preventing your thoughts from wandering too far.

We’re going to take a closer look at the potential of meditation for sleep. Is it a self-care fad or a genuine sleep tool?

How does meditation help with sleep?

Meditation can initiate a wealth of changes in your body and mind. Sleep problems that stem from stress and worry can often be improved by regular meditation, as the practice itself is thought to improve your relaxation response. It boosts your control of the autonomic nervous system, which reduces how easily you’re awakened.

This has been shown numerous times in research. One 2015 study explored the impact of meditation on 49 participants with sleep issues, finding that those who participated in meditation experienced fewer insomnia symptoms and less daytime fatigue.

Meditation is also thought to reduce your heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and increase melatonin release. In short, it can help to initiate the changes you see in your body as you begin to fall asleep.

How to meditate effectively

On the surface, meditation is a very simple task. All you need is a quiet setting and a few minutes. However, establishing a meditation routine takes practice, and people who meditate regularly tend to see greater benefits.

The basics of meditation including sitting or lying down, closing your eyes and breathing slowly. Focus on your breathing and should a thought pop up, acknowledge it and let it go.

Patience is key when it comes to meditation, especially at bedtime. If you’re putting pressure on yourself while meditating and worrying about not feeling tired, you aren’t likely to get the results you want.

What kinds of meditation are there?

Meditation is actually more of an umbrella term than a single practice, as there are many different kinds of meditation to choose from. Mindfulness meditation is the more traditional form of meditation outlined above, where you relax your body and mind with no distractions in place.

For some people, this can be too much to ask, especially when you’re just getting started with meditation. Guided meditations are a popular option in this case, offered by mental health apps like Headspace and Calm. These can range from a few minutes to much longer, and involve having someone else guide you through a meditation practice. Some of these are specifically designed to be done at bedtime to help you sleep better.

Body scan meditations are another option, in which you tense and then relax every part of your body starting with your toes and working all the way up to your facial muscles.

However you decide to meditate, there’s no doubt that it can be an effective way to wind down as the evening draws in. Consider adding it into your bedtime routine to see if it improves your efforts to sleep better and longer.

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