We’re all about ramping-up the quality of our rest, and meditation for sleep might just be the best way to do it. Not so sure? Maybe this sounds familiar. You’re “sleeping” but your mind is still whirring with today’s tasks and tomorrow’s to-dos, long after your head hits the pillow. You’ve tried the whole sheep-counting thing. Warm milk? Been there. Brain dump on paper? Done that. This is where meditation for sleep really comes in handy.
Meditation and sleep go together like a killer workout playlist and a long run: one significantly improves the other. And, of course, this is science-backed and expert-approved. (Why else would we be talking about it?)
Meditation for Sleep: A Science-Backed Way to Get More ZZZs
Researchers tested this theory against more traditional behavior changes in a course designed to help participants improve sleep quality.
For six weeks, one group of participants brushed up on basic sleep hygiene while the other practiced daily mindfulness meditation exercises. According to the findings, the meditation group slept better (and even reported fewer symptoms of depression related to poor sleep). The researchers credit meditation’s power to provoke a “relaxation response” in your body. No sheep necessary.
Ready to try it?
The Simplest Meditation for Sleep
While science shows any regular meditation practice can help improve the quality of your sleep, doing a specific meditation for sleep has added advantages. What are they? You know that endless stream of thoughts running through your mind at the end of a long day? Meditation for sleep can help you close the tap.
“Throughout the day, your mind is constantly busy—running through information, analyzing possibilities, and often telling stories, which can create the stress that keeps you up at night,” says Nina Smiley, PhD, a mindfulness expert at Mohonk Mountain House who focuses on helping people develop mindfulness meditation practices all day every day.
“Practicing mindfulness meditation helps clear your mind and allows you to be more present. Focusing on the breath offers an alternative to the stresses that jangle our nerves and can accumulate throughout the day, making sleep elusive as we seek to relax at night,” she says.
How to breathe better for better sleep
Like many forms of meditation, this meditation for sleep is all about the breath. Here’s how to try it in three simple steps:
- “Begin your meditation by breathing fully and gently.
- Silently say to yourself ‘in’ and ‘out’ like a sigh, which will activate your body’s relaxation response.
- As you do this, clear the mind by letting go of any thoughts that come up again and again.”
That’s it. Try the meditation for a few minutes right after you crawl into bed to drift off peacefully. Are you more of a middle-of-the-night waker? If you toss and turn at 3 a.m. worried about your morning meeting or anxious that you’ll never be able to get back to sleep, recognize these thoughts for what they are—just thoughts floating through your mind that can be swept away, explains Smiley. The more you practice this, the easier it gets.
As you practice mindfulness meditation during the day, you build a new neural path in the brain that you can access when you need it most—such as bedtime, a time when your mind can become crowded with unwanted thoughts.”
The bottom line? Just a few added minutes of meditation in your day can save you insomnia-plagued hours waiting for the Sandman to show up. That’s a dream come true.
Your turn: Meditation for sleep: Yay or nay? Tell us what makes your sleep sweet in the comments below.
Want more ways to plus up your evening routine? Check out these 5 Steps to a Night Routine That Really Works
Author: Macaela Mackenzie
Macaela Mackenzie is a freelance writer and content strategist. When she doesn’t have her nose in a research journal or the New York Times, she’s likely to be found looking for punny greeting cards or an excuse to explore a new travel spot.