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How Meditation Can Improve Sleep
Meditation is a long-honored practice of breathing deeply and quieting the mind. Meditation for sleep can be done through mindfulness visualizations, guided prompts, or simply by sitting comfortably free of distractions. It’s a practice used by many to alleviate stress, calm anxiety, and improve the quality of sleep. Since it’s a quiet activity meant to relax both the mind and body, it’s the perfect way to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
By limiting the level of stimulation in the brain and centering the mind on one calming mantra or intention, it allows the mind to slow down and drift off to sleep more easily. For those who have difficulty battling insomnia, practicing meditation is one method that may be helpful. It’s accessible to anyone and doesn’t require a lot of time to have a big impact in decreasing sleep problems.
To begin, sit comfortably with your legs crossed and palms up in a room free of noise and distraction. Start to slow your breath and pay attention to your inhales and exhales. Many like to use the three-second breathing method: Inhale for three seconds, hold it for three seconds, and exhale for three seconds. Continue this rhythm until it becomes natural and you can continue the breathing exercises without counting.
As you practice meditation, close your eyes and allow your thoughts to flow through freely. Rather than clearing the mind completely, avoid holding onto any single thought. Another option is to follow a sound or guided meditation on sleep available through various apps.
Meditation and sleep best practices help to relieve stress, calm your mind, and allow you to truly tune into what your mind and body needs. Taking a few moments every night can put you in a peaceful state of mind and let your body know that it’s time to relax.
Incorporating Meditation Into a Healthy Sleep Routine
Sleep deprivation occurs for several reasons: lifestyle changes, insomnia, sleep apnea, illness, and a range of other challenges. The effects of sleep deprivation on the brain make it difficult for many to achieve a solid eight hours of sleep per night. Social media and smartphones also affect how much sleep we get each night. Whether it’s the alert of notifications, the screen’s glow, or anticipation and anxiety that continues to stimulate the mind even after we look away from the screen, it makes it harder to wind down and achieve good sleep.
To help remedy sleep deprivation, it’s important to find a sleep routine that works for you. Meditation is a valuable addition to any healthy sleep habits. Other ways to fall asleep faster include:
- Exercising in the evening
- Avoiding late afternoon naps
- Lowering the temperature in your bedroom
- Limiting the amount of caffeine consumed throughout the day
- Removing electronics from the room
- Being mindful of what you eat before bed
- Getting a new pillow or mattress
Each of these tips promote a healthier sleep routine that when followed can help you get quality, consistent sleep.
Exercising in the Evening
Maintaining a regular exercise routine is beneficial to your health and some find it more effective in the evening as a way to wind down. By engaging in physical activity a few hours before your regular bedtime, it raises your body temperature, much like a warm bath or shower might do. Afterward, you get to experience the cooldown period, which prepares you for better sleep.
It’s not recommended to participate in high-intensity exercise right before bed, but a long walk, lifting weights, or yoga are all good ways to workout without overstimulating the body and mind too much. Each of these restorative activities pair nicely with meditation for sleep and can be performed at the same time.
Avoiding Late Afternoon Naps
Depending on your typical sleep cycle, naps may be a trick to get you on a regular sleep routine. However, be wary of taking naps too late in the day for too long. This can throw off your body’s natural rhythm and keep you awake far past your normal bedtime. Exactly how long should you nap for? If it helps to rest during the day, set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes to take a quick nap. Even if you're unable to fully achieve falling asleep, it’s also a good time to meditate for a few moments and be still.
Some people may need extra time to feel refreshed, while others feel groggy if they nap for too long. Listen to your body and sleep when necessary during the day. If you find yourself sleeping long stretches during the day but inconsistently at night, it’s likely that your circadian rhythm is off and needs to be recalibrated.
Lowering the Temperature in Your Bedroom
One of the most common reasons people have difficulty falling or staying asleep is because their room is too warm. When the thermostat isn’t at your ideal sleeping temperature, it can be difficult to doze off or meditate. When the temperature is at one end of the extremes, your body won’t be able to fully relax.
Turn down the thermostat a few degrees. If you don’t have the air-conditioning system on, open the windows or run a fan to prompt air circulation throughout the room and provide enough ventilation. During the winter, still keep the thermostat set lower and layer your bedding rather than having one heavy blanket to cover the bed. With the Eight Sleep Pod, you will have the ability to personalize your bed temperature to regulate the perfect temperature. Simple changes like these can do wonders for how much and how well you sleep at night.
Limiting the Amount of Caffeine Throughout the Day
Everyone responds to caffeine consumption differently. Some can make it through the day with one cup of coffee in the morning, while others stock up on caffeinated drinks all day long. If you’re used to drinking a high amount of caffeine, slowly reduce the amount you consume every day. Or, strive for a “cutoff” point and see if it affects your sleep for the better.
For example, an afternoon coffee or tea might be manageable, if it’s not after 3 PM. Test different times and amounts of caffeine to determine the right amount for you. A better option is to swap your daily pick-me-up with a walk around the block, stretching, or added hydration. You may be surprised how well these work in place of your favorite caffeinated beverages.
Removing Electronics from the Room
In the digital age, we look at our smartphones multiple times a day. It’s not uncommon to also read articles, scroll through social media, or watch videos all the way up to when it’s time for bed. While it can feel restful in the moment, the constant online activity and light from the screen can trigger the brain to stay alert and awake. As a result, it takes longer to settle into sleep.
Try limiting how much you look at screens in the evening. When finished using, power them down and leave them in another room at least an hour before bed. Take advantage of any additional time to read a book or magazine, meditate, or another quiet activity that doesn’t require interaction or too much engagement.
Being Mindful of What You Eat Before Bed
Spicy or acidic foods are known to disrupt sleep because of the effects they have on the body, especially when eaten late in the evening. These types of foods can cause an upset stomach, acid reflux, or heartburn, all of which can cause discomfort and keep you up at night. When these symptoms become a reason you can’t sleep, cut back on what you eat right before bed.
Milder foods like bananas or oatmeal are the kinds of snacks that can help cure the midnight munchies and also, promote fitful sleep. You can also reference 10 foods to eat before bed to help you sleep better. When you focus your attention to what’s triggering certain events or limitations to your sleep, you can start changing your dietary and other lifestyle habits for the better.
Getting a New Pillow or Mattress
If you’re not sleeping well and nothing else seems to be working, it may be as simple as swapping out your pillow or mattress. Waking up with a stiff neck is never fun and can be a result of a pillow that’s lost its fluff. Also, if your pillow isn’t in good condition, you may end up tossing and turning throughout the night. The same goes for the support of your mattress.
Do a pillow test and find what level of firmness you like best and switch out the old with something new. Typically, you should buy new pillows every one to two years and a new mattress every ten. By updating your bedding, it provides a comfortable place to rest without shifting sleeping positions all night to find the one that works well.
Being Mindful about Sleep
Meditation before sleep benefits include being present in the moment and checking in with how you feel physically and mentally. By creating a healthy sleep routine, you are proactively changing your environment and habits to get better sleep. It doesn’t require adding every method into your own sleep routine. Pick and choose the parts that work best for you and leave the rest.
Whenever your mind starts to wander and you just can’t fall asleep, meditation helps as a tool to get you back to a relaxed state. Once you’ve developed healthy sleep habits, including meditation, your sleep should soon begin to improve.