Do you suffer from a disturbed nights sleep? It’s common to sometimes have a restless night, if you’re excited, stressed, over tired (does it for me), hormone fluctuations etc. But having long term sleep problems that become a pattern can have a detrimental impact on our lives. One of the most common things I hear from students, is how their yoga class gives them the best nights sleep of the week. This is partly because we spend 90 minutes stilling and focussing the mind. I offer Super Sleep Yoga on a private client basis. Very happy to have a guest blog on this subject by SleepHelp on how meditation can help you sleep.
How Meditation Can Help You Sleep
Meditation has long been known as an activity for relaxation and stress relief. With meditation, you can clear your mind, let go, and get a better night’s sleep.
Why Stress Makes it Difficult to Sleep
Sleep and stress are intertwined. Generally, when you’re feeling stressed, it’s more difficult to sleep well — and when you don’t sleep well, you may experience more stress. For 43 percent of adults, stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the last month. And 21 percent of adults report feeling more stressed when they don’t get enough sleep. Adults with lower stress levels sleep more at night than those with higher stress levels, and those who sleep fewer than eight hours a night are more likely to communicate symptoms of stress.
The Relaxation Response
When you meditate, you can trigger the relaxation response. This response is the opposite of the fight or flight response and can counteract the physiological effects of stress. With regular use, the relaxation response can alleviate stress-related health problems, including insomnia and anxiety. People who meditate regularly can benefit from lower stress levels, increased well being, and reduction in blood pressure and resting heart rate.
The relaxation response can be triggered by a variety of activities, including meditation. Visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, and yoga are all options for eliciting the relaxation response and its benefits for sleep and stress.
Meditation and Sleep
Studies have shown that people who meditate or practice yoga tend to sleep better than those who don’t. A study of sleep quality and yoga and meditation found that middle-aged subjects experienced a decline in slow wave sleep states, but those who practised meditation did not experience the same decline. The study indicates the possibility of a beneficial role of yoga in sleep.
Another study found that mindfulness meditation can alleviate sleeping difficulties. The study examined middle aged and older adults who struggled with sleep. Half of them completed a mindfulness-awareness program including meditation, and the other half completed a sleep education class suggesting ways to improve sleep habits. The mindfulness group experienced less insomnia, fatigue, and depression, indicating mindfulness and meditation can be effective for encouraging better sleep.
Using Meditation for Better Sleep
Meditating and triggering the relaxation response can help you relieve stress and sleep better at night — and sleeping better can help you improve the way you deal with stress as well. Make meditation a regular practice, especially at night, so you can get the rest you need to function at your best.
- Make meditation part of your bedtime routine. Meditation is very calming, so it’s a good activity to make part of your bedtime routine each night. With meditation, you can lift off the stress of the day and go to bed feeling refreshed with a clear mind. You can even practice in bed and may fall asleep as you meditate. Meditating on a supportive, comfortable mattress can make you feel at peace as you drift off to sleep.
- Turn to meditation when you’re feeling stressed. Meditation is especially appropriate at night if you’re trying to reduce stress and get to sleep, but reducing stress throughout the day can improve your well being and help you sleep better at night. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to practice meditation, such as focusing on your breath and counting to 100.
- Meditate for 20 minutes each day. Making meditation a regular practice, whether at night or during the day, can be useful for alleviating stress and improving sleep.
- Choose the meditation practice that works for you. There are several options for meditation, including counting meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided meditation. Try different types of meditation to see what you’re most comfortable with, and don’t hesitate to switch up the type of meditation you do, depending on your mood and focus.
Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.