How To Use Meditation for Better Sleep
An ever-increasing percentage of adults get less than seven hours of sleep, resulting in chronic sleep deprivation. Stress, fluctuating work schedules, and medical conditions can all get in the way of getting a full night’s rest. However, there is a free and accessible remedy. Meditation has been used for centuries to focus both mind and body, which improves mental well-being and sleep quality.
How Meditation Works.
Of the many meditative methods in use, mindfulness meditation and similar techniques that help bring the mind into the present tend to work best for improving sleep by reducing stress.
Mindfulness meditation teaches and trains the mind to focus on present feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Stress often comes from worrying about the past or future. By bringing the focus back to the present, it triggers the body’s relaxation response. This response causes the heart rate and blood pressure to drop.
A study conducted in 2015 found that a group of participants who learned and practiced mindfulness meditation reported fewer symptoms of insomnia, fatigue, and depression. While the study wasn’t specifically monitoring anxiety and stress, the improvement in participants’ sleep quality suggests that stress levels went down too.
Further explorations of the effects of meditation have uncovered a connection between meditative methods and brain functioning. Sleep deprivation causes a weakening of the connection between the emotional and reasoning centers of the brain.
Meditation (consistent meditation practiced over time) thickens the reasoning center, and strengthens the relationship between it and the emotional. Considering that the emotional center of the brain becomes more sensitive to negative emotions when you’re sleep deprived, bolstering this connection helps you sleep better by reducing the effects of the negative emotions that cause stress.
Meditation can also affect the amount of time you spend in slow wave sleep. Slow wave sleep is when the body restores tissue, heals, and recharges energy levels. As you age, you spend less and less time in this restorative stage of sleep. A study published in Sleep and Biological Rhythms found that meditation helps you stay in slow wave sleep longer. Essentially, it restores the quality of your sleep to that experienced at a younger age.
How to Bring Meditation into Your Everyday Life.
While learning to meditate takes time, there are many tools available to assist you such as instructors, online videos, apps, and books. Ideally, you’d spend 15 to 20 minutes meditating each day but even 5 minutes can make a difference in your well-being. Adding meditation to your bedtime routine is often the easiest way to improve the quality of your sleep. It can even be done from the comfort of your own bed.
Before you get started, you’ll need to consider your comfort seriously. Physical discomfort can distract your thoughts and make it difficult to focus. If your mattress is causing you aches and pains during the night, it could interrupt your meditation and sleep. Mattresses researched and purchased online can be delivered to your front door, making the change as painless as possible.
Performing meditation while in bed can help you release stress, so that your mind and body can fully relax. With consistent practice and the right sleeping conditions, you’ll be on the path to getting a good night’s rest.
Featured photo by Pablo Orcaray
words by Samantha Kent
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