Stress has an insidious way of making itself known just as you are trying to go to sleep. By day, you may be distracted with your busy schedule. The moment you finally crawl into bed, however, you become so distracted and overwhelmed by stressful thoughts that sleep is an unreachable goal. Can meditation help you sleep better?
Meditation is an ancient practice that uses mindfulness to center thoughts, reduce stress, and calm the mind. Meditating prior to bedtime can help prepare your mind and body for sleep.
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Use Meditation to Help You Sleep Better
Here are some simple steps to meditate at bedtime in order to reduce stress and improve your sleep:
Step 1. Commit to meditating as a practice
Making the decision to meditate is the first and most important step.
People sometimes hesitate to begin a meditation practice for various reasons – they think it’s somehow “weird” or uncomfortable, they feel they don’t know how or will do it wrong, or they just aren’t willing to commit the time needed to learn the basic steps.
In reality, the concept of meditation is quite simple and easy to understand. But in order to be effective, it must be practiced regularly. Pretty much like any other activity!
You need to make meditation a part of your evening routine.
Start your journey by making a commitment to meditate nightly for two weeks to a month. One session will not be enough to give you results.
If you’d like more information on how to get started, be sure to read Meditation Tips for Beginners.
Step 2. Learn the primary types of meditation, and try each
There are three general types of meditation- mindfulness, concentration, and guided meditation. As you begin your practice, it’s vital that you try them all to see which seem to benefit you the most.
For example, my morning practice is always a guided meditation. I enjoy listening to different words of wisdom as the focus of the meditation shifts slightly day by day. At bedtime however, I prefer a mindfulness meditation set to soothing music to send me off to dreamland.
Mindfulness meditation focuses on the breath. As you breathe slowly and deeply, you will scan your mentally scan your body from head to feet to create an awareness of how it is functioning and how you feel in it.
The goal during mindful meditation is to release any wandering thoughts and replace them with an open mind that is focused only on how the body feels at that moment.
In this form of meditation, you focus on a word, thought, or phrase. You may be repeating a mantra or affirmation audibly or silently. Each time the mind wanders, you use the words to bring you back to your focus. Sometimes, you may hold a healing crystal in your hands as an object of focus.
During guided meditations, you will listen to a speaker that helps guide you through the process. This is common in group sessions that have an instructor, but there are many audio versions of guided meditation that you can do on your own.
The instructor may focus on physical aspects of your body, your emotional state, or may share a story and walk you through the details.
Step 3: Use your smartphone to help you meditate
Our smartphones are never far from reach. There are many apps that can be useful for stress-reduction, meditation, and sleep improvement. You can find apps that help us to fall asleep and those that monitor sleep cycles.
Here are three apps worth trying:
Ah, Headspace – how do I love thee?
Headspace keeps me sane by day and asleep by night. And I’m clearly not the only one who climbs into bed each night to listen to a sleepcast, sleep music, soundscape, or guided exercise. There’s even an 8-hour sleep radio, for those who tend to wake up repeatedly during the night.
You can get a monthly subscription for about the price of two cups of coffee.
The Calm app is one of the highest-rated apps providing relief from anxiety and stress. This app has a wide variety of meditations to choose from, many with a focus on improving sleep quality.
A subscription is very reasonable price, and you can try it free here.
The DARE app is an evidence-based training program to help people overcome anxiety, panic attacks, worry, and insomnia. The focus is on helping you face your anxiety and stressors using guided imagery while the audio portion helps you sit comfortably with your stress. You can track your progress daily with the mood journal.
Using your smartphone to help manage stress and sleep better makes sense since it is probably on your nightstand anyway. Having resources available that guide you through relaxing and letting go of worries is an asset at bedtime.
Step 4. Gradually extend the duration of your practice for greater benefits
In the beginning you may not be able to meditate for very long. That’s perfectly normal. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to keep your initial meditations to just 2-3 minutes if you feel uncomfortable with longer sessions.
Thoughts wander and stress has a way of overriding your best intentions. You may feel inclined to judge yourself or worry that you aren’t doing it right. But you are. Remember, it’s a practice. It’s called that for a reason.
Over time you will become more comfortable with the process, and gradually extend the length of your sessions. Go at your own pace. Be consistent with your practice, but don’t try to rush to mastery. There is no mastery! Meditation is meant to reduce stress, not create more of it.
Read More About Meditation and Stress:
- Meditation Tips for Beginners
- Guided Meditations for Beginners
- What’s Keeping You Awake?
- How Do You Recognize and Respond to Stress?
- 21 Simple Steps to a Happier Life
Final Thoughts on How to Use Meditation to Sleep Better in 4 Simple Steps
Meditation is a wonderful tool to use to reduce stress throughout the day.
It is especially helpful before bed if stress tries to rob you of your sleep.
Find a meditation style that works for you and commit to trying it for at least a month. Before you know it, your stress levels will reduce and you’ll discover that you are sleeping longer and more deeply each night.