Most of us would say that we could use a little more shut-eye. With one in three people suffering from poor sleep, there’s not many of us who bank the recommended eight hours a night.
For those who struggle to get to sleep, advice such as avoiding screens at least an hour before bedtime, having a comfortable mattress and keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature can help.
But did you know that research has shown meditation can also be conducive to a better night’s sleep?
Here we talk about how meditation helps with insomnia and other sleep problems.
It Helps Us Switch Off
Of all the factors that prevent us from going to sleep, the ability to just “switch off” is one that probably affects most of us. Whether that’s because of work stress, a never-ending to-do list, or you’ve simply been binge-watching too many episodes of your favourite show. If your mind’s constantly whirring over the day’s activities and emotions, you’ll never be able to relax and fall naturally to sleep.
Meditation and mindfulness, the act of being fully in the present moment, are useful tools to help. Although they are closely related, they are not the same. Practising meditation will help you achieve mindfulness, enabling you switch off those racing thoughts and putting you in the right frame of mind for sleep.
We’re More Likely to Enjoy Quality Sleep
Not all sleeps are created equal. There are two important stages of sleep – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). REM is where our brains process new information, and lack of REM sleep can be detrimental to our concentration, memory, and general and emotional wellbeing. SWS is a deep sleep state where our heart rate and breathing slows right down, our muscles relax and our bodies repair and strengthen our immune system, hormones and cells.
However, if you find it hard to get to sleep or you constantly wake up through the night, you might not be reaching these important levels of sleep. Various studies have shown that regular meditation can enhance both REM and SWS.
It Helps with Your Mental Health
Sleep and mental wellbeing are closely related. When we’re stressed and anxious, we find it hard to get to sleep. And lack of sleep can only exacerbate those feelings of worry and stress, meaning we can stay trapped in a vicious cycle of high stress and little sleep.
Meditation has been shown to lower the heart rate and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. By mediating regularly, we can help bring about a more relaxed state of mind and one that’s more susceptible to falling asleep.
A Quick Bedtime Meditation Exercise
But to start you off, here’s a simple bedtime meditation you can do tonight:
- Get into bed and lie down on your back. Put your hands down by your side, or on your stomach if it feels comfortable.
- Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice your breathing and feel your hands go up and down with your breath if they’re on your stomach.
- If any thoughts – good or bad – pop into your head, don’t worry. Simply acknowledge they are there and then return to focusing on your breathing.
- Starting at your feet and slowly working your way up, move and flex each body part, noticing how it feels. Then relax and feel it go heavy before you move onto the next.
- Pay particular attention to the neck and the face muscles as that’s where we can carry a lot of tension.
- If you’re still awake at the end of this exercise, focus your attention back to your breathing until you drift off.
Meditation techniques can take time to get used to, but once you get started and into a routine of practicing before bed, you should soon start to feel the benefits through the night.