In order to achieve a calmer state of mind, meditators often employ a wide range of mental and physical practices. Meditation has been around for thousands of years, but it is only recently gaining popularity in the United States, where nearly one in six Americans now engages in regular meditation.
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Meditation is being studied more and more for its possible use in treating insomnia. If you’re having trouble getting access to other forms of therapy or medication for your insomnia, sleep meditation may be a good alternative because it’s cheap, has few side effects, and is simple to adopt.
What is Meditation?
Meditation, also known as mindfulness and mindful meditation, is an exercise for the mind and body (a heightened awareness and focus) that helps you pay attention to your breathing and sensations (what you are hearing, smelling, feeling, seeing, and tasting) rather than the troubling thoughts, images, and feelings that distract you from these. By shutting out the bad thoughts, meditating lets you focus on the present moment and ease into peace.
Training your attention on the here and now is one of the many benefits of meditation. The aim of the ritual is to help you feel at peace and eventually fall asleep. The purpose of this technique is to help you find your center and maintain hormonal equilibrium in the face of adversity (i.e. illnesses and disabilities, stress, anxiety, depression, dysfunctional relationships, insomnia, job issues, etc.). Therefore, it is commonly used to boost one’s health and happiness. Thus, meditation probes the link between thought, feeling, and action.
The percentage of American adults who reported using meditation to alleviate stress, pain, or insomnia nearly tripled between 2012 and 2017 (from 4% to 14%), per data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). From 2012-2017, the percentage of American children aged 4-17 who regularly practiced meditation increased from 0.6% to 5.0%.
The flexibility of meditation means it can be done just about anywhere: in a quiet office conference room or break room, in your car, at home in a bedroom, closet, or bathroom, etc. The only things you need to meditate effectively are a calm, distraction-free environment, a supportive posture (whether sitting, lying down, or standing), something to concentrate on (your breath, thoughts, sensations, a word or phrase, or an actual object or image), and an optimistic frame of mind.
How long is a typical meditation session?
It’s normal to feel uneasy when you first start meditating, since the practice is designed to help you develop a sharper sense of awareness and concentration. Sessions may initially be brief, lasting only 3-5 minutes. Sessions initially last 5-10 minutes, but could expand to 10-30 minutes over time. The ability to meditate consistently is more important than the amount of time spent meditating (regularly or at a set time each day or night). The good news is that even just 10 minutes of daily meditation can have positive effects.
Is meditation beneficial?
Researchers have shown that meditating may help with a wide range of health issues, including stress, anxiety, pain, depression, and sleeplessness. Diabetes, lupus, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome are just some of the diseases that may benefit from meditation, according to some research (IBS). There is some evidence that it could even help with things like stopping smoking and lowering blood pressure, as well as preventing the cognitive loss that comes with old age.
Should I try meditation for my insomnia?
You can’t just will away your sleeplessness; the recurring mental images, emotions, and other triggers are sometimes quite tenacious. They become more annoying and difficult to get rid of the more you try to ignore or silence them. It’s difficult to concentrate, unwind, or get to sleep in such an environment. Bringing your attention to the present moment is one of the main benefits of meditation. Even more specifically, it gets rid of the distracting mental chitchat that’s preventing you from sleeping peacefully. As a matter of fact, research shows that all it takes to relieve stress, sadness, anxiety, and sleeplessness is just 10 to 30 minutes.
Can Meditation Treat Insomnia?
It has been shown that several types of meditation can benefit people with insomnia, and there’s some evidence to suggest that they can help even people who don’t have sleep issues get a better night’s rest. In particular, mindfulness meditation appears to enhance the quality of sleep and lessen daytime disruption in those with chronic insomnia and the elderly. These enhancements may, in the long run, be on par with the benefits of traditional treatments for insomnia like sleeping pills. The fundamental purpose of meditation, like other sleep therapies, is to alleviate the stress of getting to sleep.
How Do Meditation and Mindfulness Affect Sleep?
It is easier to go asleep when one’s mind is calm and at ease, and both mindfulness and meditation can do this. This is known as the “relaxation response,” or the “anti-stress” reaction.
Insomnia is typically thought of as an over-aroused condition, in contrast to the progressive decrease in arousal that occurs when falling asleep. Stress, depression, and anxiety all keep the brain “wired,” making it harder to get to sleep. In the long run, we reinforce this stress by associating going to bed with the anticipation of being up for a significant portion of the night.
Meditation’s ability to induce a state of acceptance and awareness has been linked to a decrease in psychological distress and an increase in the capacity to control one’s thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness has been shown to aid fibromyalgia patients in dealing with negative emotions like anger, worry, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness, according to these investigators, may help patients get better sleep by giving them the mental tools they need to relax their bodies and minds before bed.
Meditation has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and slow the heart rate and breathing rate of its practitioners. Stress-induced inflammation and oxidative stress can be mitigated and insulin resistance can be improved with the help of the relaxation response.
Although research into the precise relationship between meditation and sleep is still in its infancy, preliminary findings suggest that meditation causes long-lasting changes in the brain that may influence sleep. Expert meditators have been shown to benefit from less nighttime awakenings and enhanced slow-wave and REM sleep.
How Often Should You Meditate for Insomnia?
If you want to get the full advantages of meditation, you need to develop the skill of meditation and do it regularly. Researchers have shown that the relaxation response has rapid psychological and physical impacts, thus practicing it every day is recommended for maximum results.
The benefits of meditation have been found to be amplified in long-term practitioners, despite the fact that factors like the minutes spent meditating and the quality of meditation are difficult to quantify.
Similarly, a 12-month follow-up of a meditative treatment for insomnia in people with breast cancer showed no continued benefits. These findings point to the long-term practice of meditation as being the most beneficial.
How Can You Meditate for Better Sleep?
To lay the groundwork for your meditation session, start by preparing a calm environment and finding a comfortable position. When meditating before bedtime, this may include changing into loose pajamas, turning off the lights, and getting into bed. You can maximize the benefits of meditation for insomnia by also engaging in good sleep hygiene practices and making use of tools from cognitive behavioral therapy for sleeplessness.
When listening to a guided meditation session on your phone or other device, you can minimize interruptions by disabling alerts, lowering the screen’s brightness, and adjusting the volume.
Following this, most meditative practices have their adherents seek out a point of concentration. In order to help you fall asleep, a meditation soundtrack may employ a calming voice, guided imagery, music, or some other method.
What Types of Meditation Work Best For Sleep?
Many different types of meditation for sleeplessness share commonalities, such as an emphasis on breathing and awareness. To select a meditation technique that works for you, you can consult a trained professional, use a mobile app, or research several techniques online. Common forms of meditative sleep aids include:
- The majority of studies examining the efficacy of meditation for treating insomnia have focused on the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness entails paying attention to the here and now and accepting one’s feelings and ideas without judgment.
- With the help of soothing music and guided imagery, meditators can ease their minds and fall asleep more easily. Many times this is done with the aid of a recording, either video or audio.
- In body scan meditation, practitioners are asked to pay attention to their bodies as a whole and make mental notes of everywhere they feel pain or stress. This is related to the practice of progressive muscle relaxation, in which one tenses and then relaxes each muscle in turn.
- Breathing deeply and using the diaphragm are common adjuncts to other meditative practices for achieving a state of calm. The 4-7-8 technique is one such approach; it entails taking a deep breath in for four seconds, holding it for seven, and then exhaling for eight.
Yoga and tai chi are two forms of meditative exercise that might improve your sleep. Achieving a state of relaxation whenever desired may be easier with consistent practice of these techniques, even if it is less convenient to engage in them right before bedtime.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Meditation?
Extremely rare negative reactions to meditation do occur. Nonetheless, the following might happen to certain people:
- Muscle stiffness is a possible physical side effect of several meditative postures. Particular forms of meditation that emphasize movement may be out of reach for those with mobility issues.
- Psychiatric Effects: There have been isolated reports that some forms of meditation can make anxiety and depression worse.
- No Sleep Aid: Unfortunately, sleep disorders like RLS and apnea cannot be remedied via regular meditation practice. Targeted interventions will be necessary for treating these diseases.
- It’s possible that this solution won’t work for you. You’ll need to put in some time and effort to reap the benefits of meditation. Not all forms of meditation may be best for enhancing objective sleep quality, as numerous research have revealed measures of increased alertness during sleep after meditation.
Other Benefits of Meditation
One of meditation’s most well-known benefits is its capacity to alleviate stress, sadness, and pain.
Research in this area is also discovering promising results for people with fibromyalgia, diabetes, breast cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome, all of which can have a significant impact on quality of life. There is some preliminary evidence that meditation can aid in warding off cognitive decline, helping people kick the habit of smoking, and reducing blood pressure.
Are there any tips I can use to make meditation for insomnia more effective?
There are ways to maximize the meditative advantages for sleeplessness.
Here are some suggestions for improving the effectiveness of meditation for sleeplessness:
- Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted (a bed, a couch, a mat on the floor, etc.) and a comfortable position in which to meditate.
- Sweats, pajamas, or a night shirt and gown are great options.
- Unless you are using a device to listen to or watch guided imagery or visualization, turn off all lights, the TV, radio, tablet, computer, and smartphone, and lock the door. After that, you can use these gadgets, but only when you’re trying to relax or focus your mind. Turn off notifications, reduce screen brightness, and volume if you must use a device for meditation. If you share your living space with others, you may want to let them know that you are about to meditate and would appreciate it if they would not disturb you.
- Make sure the temperature is just right. And please be as quiet as you can in here.
- Prepare for the session by taking your place.
Is there anything I should be aware of before using meditation to help me sleep?
Although there are no known negative effects of meditation, there are a few things you should know before using it to aid sleep.
- Muscle stiffness is a common side effect of some contemplative practices. Therefore, those with problems such as arthritis, muscle weakness, or other debilitating illnesses may want to avoid practicing movement meditation. If you are taking medication for a problem that affects your muscles or joints, talk to your doctor.
- Rarely, but nonetheless, certain forms of meditation have been linked to the onset or worsening of anxiety and depressive symptoms.
- Restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea aren’t cured by meditation, and neither is insomnia or any other sleep disorder. Although some research suggests that meditation can help with the symptoms of certain diseases. Before starting a meditation practice, you should talk to your doctor.
- Grasp that if you haven’t had success with meditation, you shouldn’t give up on it. It may take a few tries of meditation before you feel comfortable enough to experience its benefits. Moreover, studies have shown that certain types of meditation can cause hyperarousal before bed, suggesting that these practices are best avoided before going to sleep.