Does mindful meditation for sleep work?

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Recently, a friend reached out to me and asked if he could get my opinion on something. To give you some context, he’s a successful entrepreneur who is happily married and with kids.

We found the time to FaceTime that week and that’s when he shared that he had not been sleeping too well. He wanted to know if meditation or mindfulness would work.

He shared that a few months ago, he started waking up at a certain time very early in the morning and couldn’t seem to fall asleep after. The consequences of this started to affect his work and his time at home. He was more tired during the day and his mood and temperament completely changed. Come dinner time, he would start worrying about sleep and how it would affect him the next day.

He started changing his behaviour to try and improve his sleep. When nothing helped, he visited a doctor who prescribed sleep medication and suggested that he may be suffering from a mild form of insomnia.

The doctor recommended meditation, which led him to me.

Today, there’s evidence that mindful meditation can help treat insomnia. How is this the case, though? Many people often think that insomnia is, for the most part, untreatable.

Here’s how meditation may be changing that school of thought.

Mindful meditation changes the biology of the brain

I first learned about the incredible benefits of mindful meditation for sleep from Michael. He explained how five minutes of mindful meditation, daily, can help your brain achieve deep relaxation. This is explained in more detail in his book, A practical guide to mindful meditation.

Accordingly, our brain activity is dominated by various types of waves which includes:

Beta waves that are necessary for day-to-day functioning

Alpha waves that are necessary for deep relaxation

Theta waves that are present during REM sleep

When you meditate, alpha waves overpower beta waves, growing larger, slower, and more organised.

This, as Michael explains, happens just nine minutes after mindful meditation for sleep. Twenty minutes into the meditation, theta waves also increase, decreasing your heart rate and breathing.

In fact, six weeks of 20-30 minutes of mindful meditation, every day, can increase the grey matter in your brain. Grey matter is what is responsible for stress management, emotional regulation, and memory recall.

Michael’s recommendation is to try and get 20 minutes of mindful meditation to improve your sleep per day.

Science says that mindful meditation triggers the relaxation response

The relaxation response is a term coined by Dr Herbert Benson in the 1970s. He is the Director Emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

According to Dr Benson, the relaxation response is the complete opposite of the stress response. It is a deep, physiological change that eases many stress-related ailments.

Sleep deprivation is closely tied to stress and other conditions like depression, anxiety, pain, and high blood pressure. This, as Dr Benson explains, is why mindful meditation, or the relaxation response, supports better sleep.

The findings of his research indicate that mindfulness significantly improves sleep.

Mindful meditation for sleep involves focusing on your breathing and bringing your attention to the present moment. The absence of recurring, worrying thoughts of the past or the future helps you relax.

With practice, mindful meditation for sleep helps break the train of your everyday thoughts and evoke the relaxation response. I can’t think of anything better for getting good sleep!

Enjoy the benefits of mindful meditation for sleep

Guided meditation for sleep can help treat sleep disorders like insomnia and help with stress management.

Better sleep, in all likelihood, means a better lifestyle and higher quality of life. Train your brain to relax for deeper, more restful sleep with the proven benefits of mindful meditation.