If you’ve ever struggled to fall asleep with thoughts running in circles for hours on end, taking a few minutes to quiet your mind can make a world of difference. Meditation for insomnia may even work better and faster than other sleep remedies.
More and more research is demonstrating how effective meditation can be for sleep. Whether you’ve been suffering with insomnia for a while, or you’ve just been having trouble getting your z’s recently, science says adopting a nightly practice can help you achieve better quality sleep.
One study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine included 49 middle-aged and older adults who had trouble sleeping. Half of the subjects were taught meditation and other exercises in a mindfulness awareness program. They were instructed on how to observe “moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions.” The other half of the subjects were taught how to improve their sleep habits in a sleep education class.
Each group met once a week for two hours for a period of six weeks. By the end of the study, those in the meditation group experienced less insomnia, fatigue, and depression when compared with those in the sleep education group. So what exactly is mindfulness meditation, anyway?
While regular meditation practices simply involve sitting quietly, mindfulness meditation is a little different. According to dictionary.com, mindfulness is defined as “a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them.” In other words, mindfulness involves bringing your awareness into the present moment and disregarding your thoughts and judgements about the past or future. Mindfulness meditation, then, is the practice of bringing your awareness into the moment through techniques like deep, belly breathing.
To do this, before you go to bed, find a comfortable seat on the ground or in a chair, and decide how long you want to dedicate to your practice. If you’re just beginning, just five or ten minutes will do. Otherwise, you can sit for as long as you like, increasing your time with more experience. Place your hands on your belly and breathe in deeply, noticing your stomach rise and fall. If possible, try to draw your exhales out longer than your inhales. Counting helps with this! For example, inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of six or eight. During your meditation, notice any sensations you feel in your body, starting with your toes and working your way up to the top of your head. That’s it!
If you find it too hard to focus or relax on your own, you can also use meditation apps like Headspace, which offer guided sleep meditations for different lengths of time. What’s more, YouTube is also a great resource for sleep meditations. Check out this one, which is a body scan meditation designed to help you observe sensations in your body.
Here’s to relaxation and peace of mind!