What’s the link between meditation and sleep? Will meditation help you fall asleep faster, or will it keep you awake? Can meditation help with sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea? What’s the best type of relaxing sleep meditation?
Our guide to sleep meditation will answer some of the frequently asked questions about meditation and sleep.
Several studies have found that meditation can help improve sleep quality and prevent you from feeling tired during the day. But how exactly meditation helps with sleep is a bit more complicated.
Scientists say that meditation provides a combination of sleep benefits, including reducing mental and physical stress, relaxing the body and helping to minimize sleep disturbances.
Here are three ways that meditation can help you sleep:
Many people experience sleep disturbances due to stress. Survey findings show that 43% of respondents had lain awake at night because of stress within the prior month.
According to psychologists, sleep disturbances are often due to the sleep-stress cycle. This happens when not getting enough sleep causes you to feel stressed out, and feeling stressed out causes further sleep troubles.
If you tend to have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep because of racing thoughts and continuous worries, following an anxiety sleep meditation before bed may help you calm down. Meditation has been shown to help reduce stress and is often recommended by mental health professionals to improve psychological well-being.
The mind-body connection theory describes how when your mind is stressed, your body will also feel tense. Finding ways to relax your body can help relieve stress and possibly alleviate stress-related sleep disturbances.
Researchers say that meditation can help with sleep because it induces the nervous system’s relaxation response. During the relaxation response, your body will experience changes like:
According to the Mayo Clinic, mindful breathing can help you relax your shoulders, neck and upper chest so you can breathe more efficiently. When you practice meditation before sleep, try incorporating breathing techniques to encourage your muscles to relax.
If you often feel groggy throughout the day and rely on caffeine to keep you alert, you may be getting poor sleep quality. Not getting enough good quality rest can result in health issues, like:
Finding ways to improve sleep quality is critical to long-term health, and meditation may be one solution.A 2015 clinical trial found that participants with insomnia had significantly improved sleep quality after practicing mindfulness meditation before bed.
Other research has found similar evidence that mindfulness meditation can reduce sleep disturbances, thereby improving sleep quality.
Meditation is thousands of years old, and the practice has evolved significantly. With modern science, we better understand what makes meditation so effective and can develop techniques that maximize its benefits.
While many different styles have emerged, the best sleep meditation technique is the one that will actually work for you. You may need to try a few different sleep meditations until you find the most effective one.
Here are four different meditation techniques for sleep:
Mindfulness meditation is a way to observe your thoughts and feelings non-judgmentally in an attempt to reduce stress. Normally, mindfulness meditation is practiced by paying close attention to a sound, word or other focus aid. However, this approach intentionally causes alertness, which is not ideal for promoting sleep.
Instead, to practice mindfulness meditation to fall asleep, sit or lie in bed with your eyes closed. Turn your attention to your body and concentrate on any sensations you notice, such as your breath or the feeling of your mattress beneath you.
When practiced in combination with deep breathing, mindfulness meditation can help relax both your mind and body, making it helpful to do before bed.
In a body scan meditation, you use a mindfulness technique to actively relax each part of your body. By tightening and releasing each muscle group, you become aware of tension throughout your body, providing mindful relaxation before bed.
Begin by sitting or lying in bed. Breathe deeply to prepare your mind and body for meditation. Beginning with your face, tense and relax each muscle, including around your jaw and eyes. Gradually work your way down your body into your neck, shoulders and back, eventually reaching your hips, legs and feet.
As you complete your body scan, pay attention to how it feels to release tension. This will also help ease your mind before sleep.
Breathing meditations also use mindfulness to bring awareness to your body through your breath. It’s one of the simplest forms of meditation and can be practiced anywhere at any time, including before you fall asleep.
Follow these steps to practice breathing meditation for sleep:
As you exhale, try to actively release tension in tight spots like your neck, shoulders and stomach. Involving physical relaxation will help calm you down before bed.
Many people find they get distracted during meditation. In this case, self-guided meditations, like those described above, aren’t always effective. Instead, guided meditations can help you maintain present-moment awareness by walking you through each step of the practice.
Guided sleep meditations provide step-by-step instructions on how to sit or lie down, when to close your eyes and what to focus on. Many guided sleep meditations also give prompts to help you return your attention to your practice after your mind wanders.
Guided meditations may involve descriptions of peaceful scenes, calming stories or deep sleep meditation music to encourage relaxation.
Amazon Alexa has several different options to help you fall asleep. On your Alexa-enabled device, navigate to Games & Skills, where you’ll find a variety of meditation techniques for sleep, such as:
There’s even a convenient sleep timer so you won’t need to say, “Alexa, stop.” Just drift off to sleep without worry that you’ll be woken up later to the sound of more sleep stories.
Many people wonder whether it’s safe to fall asleep after meditating. Since meditation is a natural way to calm the mind and body, there’s no known risk to falling asleep after practicing.
Some people tend to feel tired after they practice meditation during the day. If that’s been your experience, it may be that you need to practice a different meditation style that emphasizes alertness and concentration rather than deep relaxation.
There are some reports of people having difficulties sleeping after practicing meditation. Typically, this is due to practicing a style of meditation called insight meditation, which encourages you to discover new realizations about yourself. Sometimes these practices can cause distressing memories to emerge, leading to sleep disturbances一especially when practiced in the evening.
If you’re new to meditation, try practicing guided meditations for sleep and relaxation that promote calmness rather than awareness.
Sleep apnea is a condition caused by airway obstructions during sleep. It’s typically associated with other diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, but also tends to affect older adults.
To date, little research has been done on the link between meditation and sleep apnea. No scientific evidence exists to support meditation as an effective therapy for sleep apnea.
Standard treatments for sleep apnea include using a CPAP machine and, in serious cases, surgery to remove excess tissue in the throat.
Falling asleep during meditation is extremely common, even for experienced meditators. The concern is always whether you intended to fall asleep or not. If you’re practicing sleep meditations and you fall asleep while practicing, then consider it a success. However, if you fall asleep while meditating during the day, you may want to change your technique to prevent feeling drowsy.
Because there’s a chance you may fall asleep during meditation, make sure you meditate in a safe and comfortable environment where you won’t cause injury to yourself should you doze off.
If you find yourself unintentionally falling asleep during meditation, try these tips:
As with all health practices, pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you find yourself dozing off routinely during meditation, consider whether you’re getting enough sleep and what steps you can take to improve your sleep quality.
Sleep and meditation are not the same thing, so you cannot practice meditation instead of sleep. Sleep is a vital function your body requires, just like eating. Without enough sleep, we open ourselves up to serious health risks, including a weakened immune system.
While meditation can be a positive practice for people to adopt to improve their well-being, it can never replace sleep. During sleep, your brain undergoes a specific and complex cycle of brain wave activity. While meditation can induce similar activity, it doesn’t permit your brain to experience a complete sleep cycle.
Whether you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, relaxing sleep meditations can help calm your mind and body before bed so you can get the deep sleep you need.
If you’re looking for a free guided meditation for sleep, try Relax The Back’s guided sleep meditation on our YouTube channel. Get a good night’s rest with the help of a trained meditation teacher who will guide you through a calming meditation for sleep.