This post may include affiliate links, which means I may make a commission on purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.
Today I’m excited to share a guest post about how meditation helps you sleep from Sara of Tuck.com! I believe it’s the first guest post I’ve ever hosted, certainly the first in several years. In their words, “Tuck is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.” I hope you enjoy this post and that it helps you get some much needed rest!
How Meditation Helps You Sleep
Stress is an overwhelming feeling that can rob you of the ability to relax and sleep well. But when you don’t sleep well, you can’t feel well. Fatigue may even make you feel more stressed!
Meditation can help you calm your mind and body so you’re able to wind down and get the rest you need each night.
Sleep and the Relaxation Response
When you meditate, you can trigger what’s known as the relaxation response. This response occurs when you let go and relax. It’s marked by decreased muscle tension, slower heart rate, reduced psychological distress, decreased oxygen consumption, and increased exhaled nitric oxide. The relaxation response can be used to reduce insomnia as well as depression and anxiety. It can even counteract the effects of stress on the body.
Meditation is Effective for Improving Sleep
Although sleep education is useful for improving sleep, meditation is more effective. In a 2015 clinical trial, adults with moderate sleep problems were either educated in healthy sleep hygiene or took a mindfulness awareness class including meditation. Comparatively, the adults in the mindfulness had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression than the ones in the sleep education class. Using mindfulness techniques including meditation helped the adults reduce sleep problems and improve daytime fatigue and mood.
In younger adults, meditation offers hope for insomnia sufferers. Young adults practicing meditation were able to improve total sleep time, sleep efficiency, sleep quality, and other important factors using meditation during a 2009 study.
Supporting Healthy Sleep With Meditation
Meditation can help you sleep better. Use these strategies to make the most of meditation for healthy sleep.
Pair meditation with yoga. Like meditation, yoga can help you relax and sleep better at night. Together, meditation and yoga can be especially effective. Practice calming yoga poses that can help you focus on winding down, stretching out your body, and preparing for sleep. (Note from Natasha – you can check out my free yoga classes on YouTube! The Yin practices are a particularly good way to unwind.)
Focus on relaxing meditation. Some meditation can be energizing, and while still helpful for relieving stress and improving well being, may not be the best choice for sleep. For example, observing thoughts can help you organize your thinking and feel more settled, but could be too stimulating. Meditation with low cognitive effort can be the most effective, including progressive muscle relaxation and breathing meditation. Guided meditation, such as audio programs, allow you to let someone else guide the exercise for even more relaxation.
Practice healthy sleep hygiene. In addition to meditation, you should practice good sleep habits. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and heavy meals late in the day, and stopping screen time at least one hour before bed can help you improve your sleep. (Note from Natasha – you can see some of my favorite holistic ways to relax before bedtime here!)
Get help for serious sleep issues. Though meditation can be effective for improving sleep, it’s not a cure all. You should consider meditation as a first option, along with healthy sleep hygiene, when dealing with difficult sleep. But if meditation and healthy sleep habits aren’t doing the trick, you’ll need more serious interventions. Talk to your doctor about options for treating difficult sleep, such as natural sleep aids or a CPAP machine.
Whether you struggle with insomnia or just want an easier way to fall asleep at night, meditation can offer the relief you need. Use meditation to relax your mind and body and get in the right mindset for sleep each night as part of a regular bedtime routine.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.