If you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep, or you constantly wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to go back to sleep, then you’ve come to the right place.
There are many reasons why sleep seems to keep some people awake at night while others seem to nod off as soon as their head hits the pillow.
So what is it that keeps people awake at night?
For many it boils down to stress, worry and anxiety, which keeps the mind racing at night. While for others it can be physical conditions like pain, or even medication that leaves them feeling tired or irritable each day.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Sleep is an opportunity for our bodies to repair themselves either physically or psychologically.
On a physical level our bodies need to repair muscles and cleanse organs, while on a psychological level we get to clear the mind and lay down memories.
In terms of brain function physical repairs are connected to slow brain wave patterns, whereas psychological repair is associated with active dream states.
On average, adults cycle through all forms of sleep every 90 minutes. This means that if a person sleeps for 8 hours they have five opportunities to repair both physical and psychological systems in their body.
When emotional distress and worry interfere with our sleep patterns and cycles, the natural ability of the body to repair itself becomes disrupted.
If this disruption continues for too long then our body and mind doesn’t get to repair itself which leads to tiredness, lack of energy, pain, an increased risk in developing high blood pressure, and even memory and thinking difficulty.
How Can Meditation Help With Sleep Problems?
Stress from pain, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure is one of the biggest factors that keeps people awake.
Meditation can help to reduce stress and tension in the mind and body, which can help us to relax enough so we can fall asleep.
In a Harvard University study which included two groups of people that had trouble sleeping,one of which worked on improving their sleep habits, while the other group focused on mindfulness meditation, it was suggested that meditation can help.
The study found that by teaching people in the mindfulness group how to be more focused in the moment and to step back from their thoughts and emotions, that they had less insomnia, tiredness, and depression at the end of the six meditation sessions.
Meditation is also reported to trigger the relaxation response in the body.
The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional response to stress through chemical and brain signals that slow the body down and increase blood flow to the brain.
In essence, meditation helps to lowers stress levels by decreasing the amount of stress hormones being released into the body that happens whenever we are under excessive pressure.
Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, this is more the norm than the exception.
Using Mindfulness Meditation To Improve Sleep
Just doing 20 minutes a day of mindfulness meditation will help to train the mind and body to more easily enter into a state of relaxation.
Ideally, it is best to meditate in the morning as this helps to start the day in a calm and relaxed manner. It also helps with focus and dealing with problems as they arise.
Then, when it comes time to go to bed and get a good night’s sleep, it’s easier to turn on the relaxation response part of the brain using a sleep meditation.
Not all meditations will trigger a relaxation response in the body as they are not all the same.
I’ve found that mindfulness meditations are one of the best to use because they specifically help to train the brain to be more focused on the present moment. This helps to quiet the mind which automatically evokes the relaxation response.
The main thing that keeps people awake at night is that there is still tension in the mind and body from the stresses of the day.
That’s why before you hop into bed to do your mindful meditation spend 5 or 10 minutes moving your body to help get rid of some of the excess tension.
Instead of going from sitting in front of a computer, or TV, or even reading a book and trying to go to sleep, do something physical first.
It doesn’t have to be extreme, even some light stretching, tai chi, yoga, or going for a short walk will help with reducing tension from the body.
If there is tension in your body when you go to bed, then the mind will be restless. While the relaxation response will help to de-stress the body by spending a few minutes doing something physical before meditating, it will help your body to relax faster and deeper.
A Simple Meditation To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
If doing some movement before bed is not an option for you, then here’s a simple meditation to help get the relaxation response happening in your body.
- Lay down in bed and get comfortable.
- Close your eyes.
- Progressively tighten and relax all the muscles in your body, starting at your feet and moving up to your face. Tense each of the main muscle groups for 5 seconds at a time and then release them. This will help to get rid of any excess tension in your body.
- Now allow your body to let go. Allow any tension into your bed, or the surface you are lying on. Feel your bed supporting you as you let go deeply.
- If you find that you are still awake after doing the muscle relaxation and letting go meditation, then watch your breath. Don’t force your breath in anyway, just let it be natural. All you’re doing is watching it coming in and going out, coming in and going out… It is such a monotonous process that soon you will be fast asleep.
You can even silently repeat the words in your mind. “Coming in… going out… coming in… going out…” This type of mindful meditation will help to quiet the mind and send you off to sleep.
If for any reason sleep still doesn’t come, don’t get out of bed.
You may be tempted to eat something, watch TV, read a book, or even work.
Whatever happens stay in bed because at the very least you will be relaxed.
Relaxing is almost as valuable as sleep.
But if you get up and ‘do’ something, the benefits of relaxing will also be gone.
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About the author
Michael Atma is a best-selling meditation and personal development author of Master Your Mindspace, which is a revolutionary fitness book for the mind. His books, seminars and online courses have touched the hearts and changed the lives of thousands of people seeking more happiness, health and fulfilment. Recently, he launched Mindspace.Club home to his Meditation Made Simple Program, where you can change your life in just 5-minutes a day. Find out more: Mindspace Club or check out Michael’s website.