Sleeping better doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping more – healthy sleep has much more to do with the quality than the quantity. There are many factors that contribute to a good nights’ sleep, including diet, routine, stress levels, and exercise; however, one aspect we often overlook is mental relaxation. If you’ve ever been ready for bed but unable to sleep because your mind is racing or you’re thinking about all the things you need to do for tomorrow, then you know how crucial mental tranquillity is for proper rest. But with all the external stresses of the world today, how do we achieve internal peace?
Studies have shown that mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, can significantly increase the quality of sleep that we get. Sleep meditations can help to create the inner conditions that are needed for a truly restful night – settling the mind helps the body relax and rest, and that restfulness is what makes it easier to drift off. Here, we will discuss the benefits of meditating before going to sleep and offer a few tips on how to get your routine started.
Meditation before bed – how and why it helps
Meditation is a type of mental exercise that focuses on clearing the mind, curbing negative/unproductive thoughts, and gaining internal perspective. Meditation can also utilise practices such as calming breathing techniques to help obtain peace both internally and externally. Research has shown that this can help to treat insomnia, and that it may even offer benefits to the sleep quality of people who don’t necessarily have trouble sleeping.
In addition, meditation is a useful tool in decreasing stress and anxiety by balancing the nervous system, boosting melatonin production and generally promoting chemical balance within the body. By bringing about a state of internal calmness and relaxation, meditation prepares the mind (and, in turn, the body) to transition into the sleep state more quickly and thoroughly, meaning getting to sleep faster, staying asleep longer and experiencing deeper sleep overall.
I want to meditate before bed – how do I start?
Luckily, meditation is a simple practice that can be done anywhere at any time and can be altered to fit each person’s needs. There is no equipment required, just a quiet space that you feel comfortable in and a few moments to yourself.
However, establishing your meditation routine will take some time and a bit of practice. The more time you make to set up a meditation routine, the more benefit you will receive! There are also some guided meditation tools that can aid the process such as the Headspace App and Calm App. Take a look at these suggested steps to starting out and adjust them as necessary; there’s no “right” way to meditate it’s all about what makes you most comfortable and relaxed.
Find a quiet, comfortable space
- Remove all distractions from your space, particularly electronic devices. Lay or sit down in a comfortable position, making sure it’s somewhere you’ll be able to relax fully and not need to worry about or be aware of your surroundings.
Focus on your breathing.
- Inhale for 10 counts, hold your breath for 10 counts, and then exhale for 10 counts. Don’t exert yourself – if 10 counts is too many, feel free to decrease the amount of time, just focus on keeping your breathing even.
As you inhale, lightly tense your body.
- As you exhale, release your tensed muscles and fully relax your body. Repeat this five times.
Notice your breath and body.
- Take a mental inventory of yourself. If you note any specific part of your body feels stressed or tight, take a moment to relax it on the exhale and sink into a more comfortable position.
Keep your mind clear
- If a specific thought comes into your head, don’t be discouraged! It is natural for our brains to do this at first. Gently nudge any thoughts away and return your focus to your breathing.
Are there other ways I can improve my sleep?
Meditation is a very useful tool for improving sleep, but it’s important to make sure you’re taking care of your health and your body in addition to this practice as well.
During your waking hours, make sure that you are eating a healthy and balanced diet, including cutting down on caffeine and alcohol intake, particularly in the later hours of the day. Exercising regularly can also help your sleep, as it tires your body out and promotes internal processes such as metabolism.
Your sleeping environment is also very important to the quality of your sleep. Take note of how hot or cold your room is, whether there is too much or too little noise for your preferences, and whether it is dark enough for you to feel truly restful.
Ensuring that you have the right mattress and bed is also key to a good nights’ sleep – a specialised mattress or an adjustable bed can be a game changer, especially for people who have back problems, mobility issues, or have previous injuries that make sleeping difficult.
Used in conjunction with any or all of these, meditation can be the perfect tool for better, deeper and longer sleep, particularly if you have trouble falling asleep. When it comes to meditating for improved sleep, the most important thing is setting a routine and sticking to it – the more you meditate and practice your mindfulness before bed, the quicker you will find your own ideal meditation style, posture and technique, which will lead to better sleep and an improved quality of life!