Trouble falling asleep? Meditation can help
Learn how to calm your mind to sleep with this handy meditation guide
Being in the business of sleep, as we are here at Sleep Republic, we’ve done a deep-dive (under the covers!) to discover the impact of meditation on relaxation and how to calm the mind before sleep.
Now that we’ve had our beauty sleep (and rather reluctantly out of our pj’s), we’re back to work and here to share with you our findings. So, if you’ve tried all the herbal teas, books and baths before bed to no avail, read on!
Find out how to clear your mind to sleep using meditation and discover some of the highly successful people that have turned to meditation to get a good night’s rest. It’s part of our discussion on everything you want to know about sleep.
Why can’t I “switch off”?
A racing mind is the top complaint patients report when it comes to sleep, says Dr Judson Brewer PhD, a professor and researcher at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University.
We’ve all had that feeling – desperately tired and ready for sleep – but when your head hits the pillow, your mind seems to ramp up with worries about work and family, half-recalled to-do lists and a niggling feeling you’ve forgotten something really important… Did you leave your Facebook open at work?!
Anyway, it seems we’re not alone with about one in ten Australians unable to fall asleep or stay asleep at any given time. In our information-saturated, ever-changing, complex world, it seems there are more things to keep us awake than ever. So, how do we begin to quiet our minds to help us sleep better?
Meditation and sleep
Research into the new science of sleep shows our circadian rhythms, those internal clocks that keep our bodies functioning at their peak, can be adversely affected by changes in our daily routines including how much sunlight we receive during the day, when we eat and how we relax before bed.
Meditation has been practised for centuries around the world and offers a natural, safe way to fall asleep for people of all ages. Originally a practice for spiritual enlightenment, meditation has evolved to offer a variety of benefits depending on the specific technique used and desired goal.
How do I get started?
Beginning a meditation practice is easier than you might think. But it’s worth noting that, when it comes to mindfulness practices, what works for one person may not work for another. Dr Rusch. PhD, a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, suggests introducing one of the following techniques into your daily routine can help make sleep come easier.
Breathing meditation is a simple technique for learning how to calm the mind before sleep.
To use the 4-7-8 breathing meditation technique, seat yourself in a comfortable sitting position and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, close to the front teeth.
Focus on the following breathing pattern:
- Empty the lungs of air
- Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
- Repeat the cycle up to 4 times
With its origins in Buddhism, the walking meditations technique has a multitude of benefits including:
- Boosting blood flow
- Improving digestion
- Reducing anxiety
- Improving blood sugar levels and
- Improving sleep quality
Research suggests this technique, involving slow paces in methodical patterns has a strong influential effect on our ability to sleep by reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, particularly when practised in the mornings. Clearing the mind in this way has been proven to better the quality of your sleep, even more so than more vigorous exercise.
So there’s no reason to rush out and renew that gym membership, people! Slow and steady, it seems, does win the race.
This type of meditation practice is perfect if you’re the sort of person who may find it difficult to remain still for an entire seated meditation. Mindful Movement allows you to get the benefits of meditation with slow sequences of movement.
Tai Chi and yoga are just two ancient techniques founded on the concept of mindful movement.
Should I try an app?
There is an increasing number of guided meditations now available to download providing a great resource for those new to meditation.
The Calm app, the #1 App for sleep, meditation and relaxation, offers a great introduction to those learning how to meditate. Guided meditations from a panel of experts and notable celebrities can be downloaded covering a wide range of topics that keep us up at night.
HeadSpace is another fantastic resource, and the preferred platform of Bill Gates, amongst others. Once a sceptic, Gates now extols the benefits of meditation. “For me, it has nothing to do with faith or mysticism. It’s about taking a few minutes out of my day, learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in my head, and gaining a little bit of distance from them.”
Like Calm, you can choose from an extensive library of guided meditations, bedtime stories, articles and music to help you to relax and get a better night’s sleep.
Both apps provide content specifically designed for children struggling to sleep and might just be your saviour at the ‘witching hour’ tonight.
To sleep, perchance to dream!
Shakespeare was obviously big on sleep too. And, why not? With sleep affecting everything from high blood pressure and mental health to weight control and concentration, a daily meditation practice could really change your life. You can find out everything you need to know about getting a good night’s sleep.