Mindfulness Meditation For Sleep
If you're having trouble sleeping at night, it may be worth trying meditation. Mindful breathing meditation is a deep relaxation technique that will not only make it easier to fall and stay asleep but will also improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
In this article, I will teach you a meditation method that finds its origin in Buddhism, and that can help you find the peace you deserve at night. By understanding the source of your insomnia, and with the help of a simple yet effective technique, you'll soon be in control of your sleep again. Read this blog post from Harvard Medical School about how Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia.
I can personally testify that since I started practicing meditation right before bed, the quality of my sleep has improved very much. In the morning, I feel refreshed, alert, and more patient.
What is the best meditation for sleep?
It's not a secret, there are dozens of meditation types out there. I'm coming from a Zen Buddhist background, so it's only natural that I propose to you a form of meditation based on mindful breathing.
This straightforward and effective method of meditation for sleep will require you to simply pay attention to your body and your breath — nothing more.
It has been proven that the less cognitive effort (intellectual activity) meditation requires, the more effective it is to relax your mind and body, thus promoting sleep.
There are numerous benefits to all kinds of meditation, but when it comes to sleep, choose one that will help you to calm your mind, not stimulate it. Because you are seeking for a meditation practice that will help you sleep, you should avoid any meditation practices based on visualization and imagination as they tend to excite and activate the mind, the opposite of what you want.
The following is so simple that you will have no problem reaping huge benefits from it. After a short while, you will learn to quiet your mind so that sleep can come to you naturally.
Does meditation for sleep work?
With the ever-increasing popularity of Buddhism, Yoga, and mindfulness, more and more people in the Western World rely on sleep meditation to improve not only their ability to relax but also the quality of their sleep.
The core of mindfulness meditation is to slowly learn how to detach yourself from potentially disturbing emotions and thoughts.
The National Academy of Sciences estimates that around 60 million American adults chronically suffer from some sleep disorder. Lack of sleep impairs not only your productivity but also your health and longevity by increasing your chances of suffering from stress, anxiety disorders, burnout, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart related problems like heart attack and stroke.
Today, more and more doctors recommend meditating before they go to bed, and most patients saw a massive change in their ability to sleep better and more profound, without waking up in the middle of the night.
It has been shown that practicing meditation before sleep improves insomnia symptoms, stress, anxiety, and fatigue. It also leads to happiness and optimism more patience.
The mind-calming practice that focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment has also been demonstrated scientifically to reduce fatigue, anxiety, depression, rewire brains, and even repair genes.
Meditation is an excellent tool for those looking for an all-natural, medication-free way to treat insomnia. It has also been shown to help reduce or eliminate the use of sleeping pills and have unwanted side effects.
How does meditation helps sleep?
In order to understand how meditation helps sleep, we must understand what the source of our insomnia is. In some rare cases, the source of sleep difficulties is physical and is caused by an illness or other physical disorders. In the vast majority of cases, sleeplessness finds its origins in the mind, in the monkey mind.
Being a precursor to psychology, the Buddha talked to us, more than 2500 years ago, about the monkey mind, this unsettled, restless, overthinking mind. The monkey mind is the part of the mind that is hyperactive, inattentive, preoccupied, and that bounces from one thought to the next.
It's the part of our mind that thinks constantly, and that clings on the past, fears the future, but that is never in the present moment. This ongoing noise created by our monkey mind makes it impossible for us to be present and experience the moment we are in, the only place where we can be truly happy or at peace.
This inner monologue is mostly composed of thoughts that are concerned with the fears and anxieties of life. You know the pattern: you start thinking about your bills, your job, the kids, your grocery list, the future, etc. This overwhelming flood of thoughts gets in the way of restorative sleep. This unbalanced state of mind creates a tremendous amount of stress in our body, resulting in having difficulty to fall and stay asleep.
In order to calm the body for sleep, we must inevitably work on our mind, and paradoxically, the best way to calm our mind, is through the body, through proper, mindful breathing. By focussing on your breath, you learn to calm the monkey mind and to let go of those self-created stresses manifesting in your body.
How to do meditation for sleep?
Sleep meditation is a practice that eases you into a restful sleep by using mindful breathing as the breath is the link between the body and the mind. Not only mindful breathing will help you sleep soundly, but it will also make you feel more calm and serene throughout your day.
Sleep meditation involves focusing your attention on your breath and the present moment, without drifting into worries about the past or the future. By calming your mind and your flow of thoughts, your body will calm itself as well, and in this untroubled state, you will be able to sleep naturally and easily.
What you do before going to bed (or meditating) has an important impact on the quality of your sleep/meditation, as well as your ability to fall asleep. Having a relaxing routine at least two hours before bedtime will help diminished both mental and physical stress and anxiety. In other words, get your body ready for meditation and sleep.
Here are a few suggestions you may include in your pre-sleep/meditation routine.
- Dim the lights, create a visually relaxing atmosphere.
- Avoid activities that can cause excitement: phone, tablet or computer, or tv.
- Do calming activities like listening to music or read a book.
- Take a warm shower or bath.
- Have a cup of tea or warm milk (avoid caffeinated beverages).
- Avoid thinking about tomorrow's to-do list.
- Spend time connecting with your spouse, children, or significant other.
Ideally, you should practice sleep meditation in the same room where you will sleep so you can go straight from meditation to sleep. Make sure that the environment in which you will meditate/sleep is adequate. It goes without saying, but the room you'll sleep in needs to be quiet and peaceful, where you will not be disturbed. The room temperature must be neither too hot or too cold. Also, make sure the room is dark.
There are many ways you can practice meditation for sleep, and to be honest, the posture that you will use is pretty much up to you.
As far as I'm concerned, I practice Zazen right before bed, but you can choose the posture that suits you best:
- On a meditation cushion.
- On a meditation bench.
- On a chair.
- On your couch.
- In bed.
Close your eyes, remain motionless as much as possible, and become mindful, aware of your body. Feel every part of your body, noticing touch and pressure where it makes contact with the seat, the floor, or the bed. For a few minutes, move your attention to whatever part of the body you want to.
By bringing your attention to the body, you prevent overthinking and clinging to your monkey mind.
To establish a deep connection between your body and your mind, breathe with a calm, long and deep natural rhythm. You should "push" a little your exhalation while inhalation is done naturally, but don't overdo it, keep it natural. After a minute or two, you should find the breathing tempo that is right for you.
Now, you have to stay totally present during each and every inhalation and exhalation. Feel the air coming into your nose, mouth, throat, and lungs. During exhalation, feel it leaving your body. Be mindful, present, aware of it.
Remember, only concentrate on your breath.
5. State of mind
During sleep meditation, your mind will probably start to wander, and that's okay. Don't be upset, don't punish yourself; just bring your focus back to your breath. It is perfectly normal to have thoughts and emotions popping up during meditation.
The goal is to be present so, don't pursue your thoughts or fight them. The more you will try to get rid of them, the more attention you will give them, and the stronger they will become. Try not to attach or identify to them; just let go and let them pass without judgment, like clouds moving through the sky.
As soon as you become aware that you are identifying or clinging to your thoughts, quickly bring back your awareness to your body and your breath; your mind will soon calm down.
With experience, you will have less and less thoughts popping up during meditation, your mind will come to rest more easily, and you will fall asleep more quickly. After practicing sleep meditation for a while, your mind and body will become conditioned, and you'll be amazed at how quickly you'll be able to relax. You'll probably won't need meditation at all to fall asleep.Sleep meditation summary
1. Do relaxing activities two hours before meditation/sleep.
2. Go to a quiet, dark room.
3. Choose the posture that is right for you; bring your attention to your body.
4. Focus on your breath and your breath alone.
5. Be present. Don't identity or cling to arising thoughts; just bring back your attention to your breath.
Alternative Methods: Guided Meditation
I'm aware that sleep meditation can be difficult for some people, but I sincerely believe that anyone can learn to do it. I think that you should develop the ability to meditate without any support. Practicing sleep meditation "by yourself" is the best way to truly understand your mind and the way it functions.
That being said, if you've been practicing meditation for sleep without satisfying results, you can get help from guided meditation. I suggest that you use sleep guided meditation as a stepping stone toward learning to meditate by yourself, free from any support - the way it should be.
Suggested Guided Meditation for Sleep
Needless to say, there is lots of content out there regarding guided meditation for sleep, but they're not created equal. Here are my favorite (and tested) audiobooks, apps, and books.Youtube for Sleep Meditation (free)
1. Samadhi - Guided Meditation #1- Breath as the Bridge by AwakenTheWorldFilm.
2. Guided Meditation Before Sleep: Let Go of the Day by Scott Ste Marie.
3. Sleep Hypnosis for Anxiety Reduction & Reversal by Micheal Sealey.
4. Guided Meditation For Deep Relaxation, Anxiety, Sleep or Depression by Katrina Repman.
5. Sleep Talk Down Guided Meditation: Fall Asleep Faster with Sleep Music & Spoken Word Hypnosis by Stephen Thompson.
1. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh.
2. Buddha's Book of Sleep by Joseph Emet.
3. Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön.
4. Guided Meditation, Sleep Anxiety, and Insomnia By Paul H. Ciccarelli.
5. Guided Meditation for Sleep by Willink Timothy.
Meditation for sleep is a beautiful way to quiet the voices of fear, anxiety, worry, and other negative emotions that are taking too much space in your head, and that prevents you from sleeping peacefully.
Learning to manage your monkey mind through the practice of mindful breathing is, without any doubt, one of the best ways to transform your anxieties into serenity. It might be difficult at first - like most new things are - but you'll get the hang of it, so don't give up.
By learning the art of letting go, by training your mind, you will not only immense benefits in terms of sleep, but it will also help you live a healthier, happier life.