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The Complete Guide To Meditation For Better Sleep

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A good night’s rest has a lot more to it than simply laying down in your bed for 7-9 hours a night. Proper sleep is both measured in terms of the quality of rest we receive, as well as the length of time that we successfully rest for. Though any rest is better than none, proper sleep has the power to help the body recover from stress, wear, and illness significantly more efficiently. In his famous book, Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker shared with us just how important sleep is for longevity, health, and fitness. Nearly every aspect of our body recovers most efficiently during deep sleep, and it should be a health priority for nearly every one of us. For me, reading his book actually frightened me enough to finally get my sleep habits in order, which has also transformed the way I am able to perform during the waking hours of my day as well.

Though it is not frequently discussed in the mindfulness community, improved sleep quality is one of the main and most significant benefits of regular meditation. Mindfulness practices have the power to reduce our blood pressure, and turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, which enables the body to experience fewer stress chemicals, and therefore ease. This lack or reduction in stress chemicals enables the evening hormones and chemicals like melatonin to flow freely, calming the body into the evening’s rest more effectively.

Meditation For Sleep

For many individuals, a regular meditation practice, regardless of the hour of the day, produces an improved ability to rest in the evening and experience a high quality of sleep. However, with that being said, meditation for sleep is a specific practice done in the evening, right before going to bed. Meditation regardless of the time of day is proven to lower blood pressure and ignite the para-sympathetic nervous system, aka the system the calms us down. Meditation for sleep is when we meditate before bed, in order to take advantage of this physiological phenomenon. It is a way to hack the relaxation benefits of a mindfulness practice directly before our big night of rest. By taking time to intentionally ground ourselves in the calmness of the present moment directly before bed, we are able to hack our brain and body for not only the possibility of a fuller night’s rest but for that rest to be of a higher quality.

What Are The Benefits Of Sleep Meditation?

As highlighted throughout the book mentioned above: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, the benefits of sleep meditation are in a nutshell, the benefits of better sleep. There is still a lot we do not know about sleep just yet, but some of the things we do know include the following:

  1. Quality sleep reduces our risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. A full night’s sleep helps reduce stress and anxiety.
  3. Mental clarity and memory are highly correlated with quality sleep.
  4. Sleeping less than the recommended amount of time is correlated with faster deterioration of many of our body’s different types of cells, resulting in quicker aging.
  5. Sleep deprivation increases the odds of heart disease.
  6. Sleep deprivation is correlated with immune system deficiencies.
  7. A high quality of rest improves decision making and reaction time – and pretty much all other motor skills regulated by the brain/body partnership.

Does The Modern World Have Problems Sleeping?

In the modern world, especially the western world, dare I say – we have a chronic problem of sleep deprivation, and it seems like barely anyone knows it. In America, 70% of adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least once a month, and 11% report that they suffer from insomnia and insufficient sleep every single night! To top that off, the CDC reports that 1 in 3 adults do not get the required amount of sleep for an ideal level of wellbeing. To sum it up simply, 1 in 3 of us have a serious problem with our sleep, and it is negatively affecting our health. The craziest thing about it is that we are hardly aware that it is a problem, or more so, that it can be solved.

Why We Can’t Sleep

Along with the technological revolution, came the wave of modern insomniacs. The main reason we can’t sleep is most likely our own technology usage habits. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 90% of adults in America, of all ages, use technology right before going to bed. Looking into the light of screens in this way causes delayed release of melatonin (the highly important sleep chemical) by up to 90 minutes. One of the most simple ways we can help ourselves sleep better is by dropping the technology at least an hour before going to sleep. Replacing computer time with something physical such as reading a book, stretching, or doing a puzzle can help us wind down so that when we are finally ready to lay down, our body is also prepared for the rest it is about to receive. Falling asleep faster, instead of tossing and turning, is one of the simplest ways to extend the length of our sleep. If we really need to be on our screens before bed, there are also a few strategies we can use to at least limit the amount of stimulation we receive from the screens we are looking at. Using screen blue-light dimming apps such as flux, or wearing blue light glasses can help limit the amount of highly stimulating blue-light we are allowing to reach our eyes and minds before bed. The easiest way to avoid this issue is to simply set aside a specific amount of time before going to sleep we commit to avoiding screens and technology. This will help reduce stimulation and ground us in the calmness we need to put our mind and body at ease.

Another one of the most significant reasons we can’t sleep well is that in the modern western world, we carry within us relatively high levels of stress. Experiencing stress throughout the day, especially if it is ongoing on a daily or weekly basis, will limit the quality of rest we receive at night. Cortisol and adrenaline, the hormones released during stress, send our bodies into high alert through their own innate alarm system. Even if we only live in this state for a few hours early on in our day, it has the potential to affect our rest.

How To Meditate For Better Sleep

Meditation for better sleep, and for beating insomnia can be done in a variety of different ways. Meditation in general can follow any number of different techniques, and each one has its own unique benefits and qualities. Meditation for sleep should be approached in the same way as other purposes for meditation. When meditating before bed, the main thing to remember is that the goal of this practice is relaxation. Instead of focusing on remaining in a strong, convicted state of focus and awareness, we want to choose a meditation that provides us with a state of calm. This can come in the form of several different forms of meditation. Feel free to choose any that achieves a strong sense of relaxation for you personally. I would recommend one of the following for anybody looking into trying sleep meditations for the first time:

Body Scan Relaxation Meditation

This practice involves scanning the body starting from the toes and working your way up to the top of the head, giving each part of the body along the way a moment, or a few moments of attention. While scanning the body, focus on releasing any tension held in each part of the body throughout your scan. Release tension wherever you find it on your exhale, and make relaxation and calm the main focus of your practice. This can serve as a powerful lullaby for the body when done before bed.

Open Awareness Meditation

An open awareness meditation can be a great practice to utilize before bed because it helps ground us in the present moment. Often, by the time night comes around, we are completely caught up in the events of the day. We are thinking about them, replaying them in our head, or we are simply stuck in the energy flow of our schedule. Open awareness meditations have no rules. They are simply a moment of silence to take in our surroundings. During this form of meditation, we listen to the sounds around us, smell the scents, feel the sensations, and we ground ourselves back in calm, and back in a simple acceptance for however the present is showing up for us. When relaxation is prioritized during this meditation technique, we can drop into a state of ease at the perfect time, right before sleep.

Visualization Meditations

Visualization exercises can be performed either following a guided track, which is easy to find in many places across the web or on your own. The purpose of this meditation technique is to visualize a specific scene, place, or experience as vividly as possible. Ideally, we are picturing the entire sensory perception of our chosen experience. Though this practice is often utilized for working through a highly stimulating experience, the reason this technique is perfect for sleep and rest is that we can choose to visualize whatever we choose. In the case of meditation for sleep, visualization allows us to perceive of as relaxing of an experience as we can possibly conjure up in our mind. By taking several, or several dozen minutes to intentionally visualize a relaxing experience, we can pre-emptively calm the body and the mind in order to produce a better sleep shortly thereafter.

Breathing Meditation Or Breath Exercises

Because the physiology of the body is inherently intertwined with the breath, we can intentionally calm our body very noticeably, through slow, lengthened, conscious breaths. This can be further emphasized when we lengthen the exhale, which tricks the body into experiencing calm. The 4-7-8 breathing technique has been a common choice for evening meditators seeking a release of tension, and improved relaxation in order to facilitate a high quality of sleep and rest during sleep.

Free Sleep Meditations On YouTube

YouTube is perhaps the best resource for free guided meditations. If after reading through this article you are looking to get your hands on some meditations focused on improving sleep, here are some of the most popular sleep meditations available on YouTube.

5 Minutes Meditation Before Sleep From Great Meditation

30 Minute Guided Sleep Talk Down Meditation From The Honest Guys

12 Minute Guaranteed Sleep Meditation From The Honest Guys

Quick 10 Minute Meditation For Deep Sleep From My Peace Of Mindfulness

10 Minute Deep Sleep Meditation From Calm

Other Things You Can Do To Fall Asleep Easier

  1. Stop eating several hours before going to sleep. This will help the body slow digestion and begin to quiet its activity by the time you need to go to bed.
  2. Adopt stress management exercises so that you can experience more ease and less stress throughout the day, which will inevitably support quality sleep and rest.
  3. Exercise throughout the day, specifically in the morning. By burning energy, you are not only taking control of your health, you are most likely going to be more tired when the evening comes around once your body is craving rest.
  4. Adopt a bedtime routine. Plan your evenings out in a succession that is more and more relaxing and restful. By intentionally winding down your demands in a specific order, you can begin to adapt to a regular bedtime.
  5. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This will allow your internal clock to get used to a specific schedule.
  6.  Turn off, or dim your lights before bed. Light can stimulate the eyes and the brain, so darkening your surroundings before bed can help.
  7. Sleep in darkness. We have evolved to sleep at night, often times, in dark places. Our brains relax easier and in these environments.
  8. I am not a doctor or a medical professional, but drinking a bed time tea, or trying a small dose of melatonin has been reported to help many people sleep better.

To finish this article off, here is a great video from Matthew Walker outlining some of the most important adjustments to make in order to improve your sleep and leave insomnia in its tracks.

About the author
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Sean Grabowski

A passionate ambassador, educator and student of mindfulness and meditation. Advocate for unique experiences and life long learning.

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