With the right meditation strategy, you can get much better sleep on a consistent basis. This is especially true if you’re using a meditation app like Aura to keep you consistent and guide you through each meditation session--you can download Aura right now to get started!
But why is meditation so effective, and how can you use it to get the benefits for your sleep?
Let’s start by diagnosing the problem. Why do people struggle to get sleep in the first place?
Some combination of the following problems is likely to blame.
· Physical health issues. Many people struggle to sleep due to physical health issues, such as sleep apnea or chronic pain. These are hard to relieve without the help of medications or specific treatments.
· Environment issues. More commonly, bad sleep is a byproduct of a non-ideal environment. You might be stuck sleeping in a lumpy bed, in a hot room, or in a home that’s afflicted by the loud noises of traffic. These can make it hard for anyone to sleep.
· Stress. Others are unable to sleep because of chronic stress. They have a difficult job, family strife, or other personal issues to contend with, so they find it hard to relax enough to get to sleep.
· Anxiety. Anxiety is another common problem. If you’re worried about paying the rent, or just the looming threat of the future, you won’t be able to get a restful night of sleep.
· Restless thoughts. Similarly, many people are afflicted with persistent, restless thoughts. Every time you try to get to sleep, you find yourself thinking in loops about your life, the universe, or even abstract ideas that are hard to articulate. Thinking actively like this makes it impossible to sleep, but it’s hard to turn those thoughts “off.”
· Inability to relax. Even outside the realms of stress and anxiety, you might find it hard to relax. It could be because you’re uncomfortable for some reason, or because your muscles are too tense.
· Depression. Depression and other mental health issues can interfere with your sleep patterns—especially if they’re related to your stress, anxiety, and environment. As you can imagine, this isn’t something you can improve in one day.
· Bad habits. Several bad habits can make sleep issues worse. For example, substance use (including caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products), lack of exercise, and bad eating habits can all affect your ability to sleep. These are some of the most pernicious problems to face, because it’s so hard to change a bad habit.
Meditation may not be able to help you with all of these potential issues, but it can provide many significant benefits.
Meditation is a habitual practice that relies on several techniques to help clear your mind, improve your focus, and pay attention to the present moment. There are many different meditation traditions, stemming from various cultures throughout the world, and there are many different ways to practice meditation.
For example, one of the most common techniques in meditation (across multiple styles) is to pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing. You focus on breathing in and breathing out, controlling your breath and allowing other thoughts and feelings to pass you by. In a session, this makes you feel more relaxed and less stressed. And if you practice regularly enough, this can help you concentrate, feel less anxiety, and even improve your cognitive potential in daily life.
These are just some of the ways that meditation before bed can help you sleep easier:
· Establishing routine. Some people find it easier to get to sleep (and stay asleep) when they have a consistent routine. They go to bed at the same time every night, and repeat the same habits right before going to sleep. This helps to get you in the right state of mind for sleep, and helps you train your circadian rhythms to be more consistent. Practicing meditation for a set amount of time (e.g., 15 minutes) before bed is the perfect way to establish and reinforce a routine for yourself.
· Preparing the environment. Meditation also forces you to prepare your environment, at least slightly. If you’re meditating in bed, you’ll need to dim the lights and lay down. No matter what posture you use, you’ll have an excuse to turn off all the digital devices that might otherwise distract you. You’ll have the opportunity to put on some soothing music, or a white noise machine, and you’ll have time to notice any environmental disturbances that might interrupt your sleep. When you’re done with meditation, your environment will be ready for sleep.
· Relaxing. The most obvious benefit of meditation is its ability to make you feel relaxed. During meditation, you’ll slow down your breathing, you’ll lower your heart rate, and you’ll lower your blood pressure. You’ll also allow all your muscles to relax, rather than remaining tense. Both physically and mentally, you’ll feel much looser and much more ready for a comfortable night of sleep.
· Putting thoughts away. If you frequently find it hard to sleep because of persistent or racing thoughts, meditation could be the ideal solution. With meditation, you’ll practice acknowledging and recognizing your thoughts, while simultaneously allowing them to pass. This is a skill that takes significant practice, but if you’re consistent in meditating before bed, eventually, you’ll become a master. Your mind will be clear of these thoughts, and you’ll be ready for a good night’s sleep.
· Easing stress and anxiety. Meditation has both a short-term and a long-term effect on your stress and anxiety. At the end of a long workday or a hard day of personal responsibilities, you may feel too worried or too stressed out to get to bed. People in this position often toss and turn, forced to deal with the aftereffects of these stressful events. A round of meditation is all it takes to lower this stress immediately; it won’t make all your problems go away, but it will significantly help, even as an amateur. Then, as you come to practice meditation consistently, you’ll find yourself in better control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You’ll be more resilient to stress throughout the day, so you’ll feel less stress at night. Over time, it will be easier and easier for you to fall asleep.
· Motivating good habit changes. Meditation is often used as a tool for motivating good habit changes. For example, many people have used meditation as a way to quit smoking cigarettes. Your bad habits are likely contributing to your sleep problem, whether it’s smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking too much caffeine, never exercising, or some other issue. With the help of meditation, you can become more aware of these problems, and muster the willpower to overcome these afflictions. With fewer bad habits and more good habits, it will be much easier to sleep consistently.
· Encouraging sleep hormone production. There’s also evidence to suggest that meditation can help to stimulate the production of hormones that are necessary for regulating sleep, including melatonin. In other words, meditation has a physical effect on your body that can help you get to sleep.
If you’re interested in using meditation for sleep, be sure to follow these important tips:
· Choose the right meditation practice. As covered above, there are a multitude of different meditation styles, traditions, and practices to try. While many of them share similarities, there are unique differences that make them appealing to different people (and for different reasons). For example, you may prefer a tradition focused on relaxation, rather than a tradition focused on introspection, or you may prefer a tradition based on its recommendations for position and posture. Explore several types of meditation, and find the right practice for you.
· Enlist the help of an app. If you’re new to the world of meditation, one of the best things you can do is find an app (like Aura) to help you. The right app will provide you with various exercises including guided meditation, where you’ll follow a meditation practice based on the verbal direction of an expert. It’s ideal for forming and keeping a habit, as well as following the “correct” meditation exercise.
· Experiment. The word “correct” is in quotation marks because while there are some best practices for meditation, there’s also some room for subjective preference. Take some time to experiment with different approaches and techniques, so you can find the best combination for your needs.
· Be consistent. As you’ve read, the best benefits of meditation begin to emerge only after you practice meditation consistently. It’s not enough to meditate once before bed; you’ll need to meditate every night (or nearly every night), and remain committed to see some long-term changes.
· Start small. Newcomers are often intimidated by the idea of making a major lifestyle change with meditation. But you don’t have to completely alter your life. Start with a small commitment. For example, commit to meditating for just 5 minutes before bed, 3 times per week. You can add more as you gain more experience and comfort with this strategy.
Meditation for sleep is much easier when you have the help of an app that you genuinely enjoy. Download the Aura Meditation and Sleep app for iOS or for Android today, and get control of your sleep habits!