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The field of sleep research has come a long way. We now understand that a good sleep isn’t just a luxury, it’s essential to our mental, emotional and physical health.
Getting enough sleep is fundamental to a healthy productive life, but poor sleep habits and our modern 24/7 world is making it more and more difficult for many of us to either go to sleep or get good quality sleep.
Good sleep habits are particularly important. Going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, staying off devices in the evening, getting adequate exercise and sunshine, and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cold, are all conducive to better sleep.
We need to start with the basics and get those right.
However, don’t overlook the benefits of adding meditation to your daily routine. There’s plenty of research confirming that mindfulness meditation can have a profound impact on your sleep.
Do you regularly get into bed feeling tired but wired and lay there tossing and turning? Perhaps you fall off to sleep quickly but wake in the small hours of the morning and can’t go back to sleep?
The more you struggle to go to sleep the more elusive sleep becomes. Lying awake worrying about it just makes it harder to drift off.
When you’re desperate to get to sleep yet sleep is illusive, your mind can make the situation worse. For many people sleep disorders are closely tied to stress and lifestyle.
This is where meditation is particularly useful. Meditation is wonderful for creating the conditions for getting better quality sleep by counterbalancing stress, relaxing the body, calming the mind, and allowing you to let go enough for sleep to arrive.
However, it’s not just about using these techniques in bed to help you to go to sleep of an evening. Practising mindfulness meditation during the day, ideally for 20 minutes, trains your body in the relaxation response, making it much easier to access that same state at night.
Let’s explore how meditation works in a bit more detail.
If you’re struggling to no off you’ve probably noticed, that the more you try to stop thinking, the more thinking ramps up and the more anxious you become. It’s a vicious circle.
On some level your mind is promising you that if you just solve this issue now, plan your day tomorrow, or worry enough about something (that will probably never happen!) then you’ll drift off.
But trying to fight your mind only makes it worse.
The more agitated your mind becomes the more your sympathetic nervous system releases stress chemistry - designed to keep you alert - and the more awake you feel. Studies show that meditation can help reduce cortisol, which is the hormone associated with stress keeping you awake.
Now is not the time for thinking, planning and problem-solving, now is the time for sleep.
Sleep meditations are designed to slow and quieten the mind when it’s in overdrive so you can access that balanced parasympathetic nervous system state which is far more conducive to sleep.
You learn how to let the thinking be there. It’s no big deal if the mind is busy. There is nothing to be urgently solved right now, and nothing that cannot be addressed tomorrow with a clear and rested mind.
Some meditations are specifically designed to benefit and hasten sleep. The following examples explain how each one works.
Whether you’ve had a busy day, stressful day, or a good day, it is always important to fully and completely relax at the end of it.
A body scan meditation is particularly useful for settling a overactive mind, releasing tension in the body, and effortlessly drifting off to sleep.
You begin by laying on your back in bed and you’re guided to turn your awareness inward to your body and breath, noticing your breath’s gentle natural flowing rhythm.
With each inhalation and exhalation, you learn to watch thoughts floating in and out of your mind - and to let go of distracting thoughts that keep your mind buzzing - by repeatedly returning your attention towards observing your breathing.
Once the body is a little more relaxed you begin to slowly scan your body from the crown of your head down to the tips of your toes, systematically noticing and releasing tension in each body part.
Relaxing your body and mind, evokes the relaxation response, a deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response, and far more beneficial for sleep.
Click here to try out a relaxing body scan meditation.
Focusing the mind on things that bring us joy and that we’re thankful for, allows the body to relax and the mind to become still and ready for a restful and nourishing sleep.
A gratitude meditation reminds you of everything that is going well in your life, and that that right here, right now, in this moment - despite whatever is happening in your world - everything is okay.
It’s a powerful practice for moving into a deeply relaxing state and more restful sleep.
We’ve all experienced busy days that make it difficult to wind down. You get into bed and your mind decides the best thing to do is to dissect the details of your day, reflecting, remembering, worrying, analysing, and perhaps thinking about the day to come.
If we’ve had a difficult day, our mind often wants to replay the story over and over in the hope of achieving resolution.
Meditation is a practice for noticing what your mind is up to, for watching your thoughts and allowing them to gently float in and out of consciousness while you remain unaffected by them. It helps you to let go of the day gone by and the day to come, and just be in the present moment.
We learn how to ground ourselves, slow down, and practice being less agitated by the thoughts or worries that come and go. Instead, we start to see they are only as thoughts. We learn that we can wind down and allow the body and the mind to relax enough so we can settle into sleep.
One great way to do this is by giving the mind a small counting task, one that is gentle enough to allow you to switch off and sleep to arrive. To try out a counting practice meditation, click here.
Being uncertain and unsure about how things will pan out, often evokes feelings of fear and anxiety. There is a sense of feeling unsettled, unstable, and ungrounded.
Meditation can help us find moments of peace and stability even amid life’s uncertainty. When things appear out of our control, staying with the breath helps you to stay grounded.
By meditating on the cyclical nature of change, we start to see that everything changes and nothing is certain. We begin to understand that the only real certainty that ever exists is uncertainty itself.
The Awakened Mind app includes amazing sleep meditations, sleep stories and Neurosync™ the world’s most advanced brainwave entrainment technology, packaged into beautiful soundscapes to help you get to sleep, stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
Each of the guided meditations in the Awakened Mind Sleep Suite has a specific focus for helping you drift off quicker and get a more restorative sleep. And every meditation has a Neurosync™ based background music option.
The Neurosync™ tracks in the Awakened Mind Sleep Suite use the world’s leading brainwave entrainment technology to help you effortlessly get to sleep, stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
You might like to try a sleep induction track for yourself. This mysterious Deep Drone track is composed to help you fall blissfully asleep.
And lastly, have a listen to our sleep stories - soothing tales that mix music, sound, and incredible voice talent to help you effortlessly drift off into dreamland.
Lie back, relax, and gently drift off to sleep as you listen to the ‘The Highway Home’. People love these sleep stories!
So, if you’re having trouble sleeping there’s plenty to choose from. It’s a case of trying different things to see what works best for you.
Wishing you a great night’s sleep!