Updated: May 13
Counting sheep? You're not alone. Nearly 70% of Americans report difficulty falling or staying asleep at least one night a month. And it's no secret that stress is largely responsible.
The more stress we have the more difficult it is to sleep. The less sleep we have increases our stress. But have you ever tried using meditation to improve sleep?
Meditation quiets the mind and readies your body for sleep.
Meditation is known to reduce feelings of stress in just minutes a day. Spending time in quiet meditation can restore feelings of calm and contentment. The practice of being fully present triggers the body's relaxation response and helps the body repair itself from the physical assault of stress.
The best news is that you can begin to experience the healing effects of meditation right away. A gentle meditation practice just before going to bed has been shown to increase melatonin and serotonin (our sleep hormones), reduce your heart rate, slow your blood pressure, and activate sleep receptors in the brain. This equates to better and longer sleep.
Here are three easy meditation techniques to use to improve your sleep quality.
Body scan meditation. This is the easiest technique for beginners. You can practice on your own or listen online. Lying in bed on your back, begin with a full body scan from head to toe. Visualize yourself looking at your body as a whole and scanning for discomfort and areas of stress or tension, as well as areas of comfort. Visualize releasing the discomfort from your body. Inhale with healing intention and, on exhale, release tension. Continue until your body feels balanced. End by taking five deep cleansing breaths.
Guided meditation. Choose from a collection of free guided meditations. Prepare for sleep by closing drapes and detaching from your day. Dim the light on your cell phone or device you're using to listen to the guided meditation. Turn off the ringer and place your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. Take several breaths before beginning the recording. Focus your attention on the person's voice delivering the meditation.
Candle meditation. This is particularly useful for sleep because candles lend themselves to a quiet environment with minimal light. Choose an aroma candle to create an even more relaxing environment. Once the candle is lit, find a comfortable seat. Take several deep cleansing breaths. Focus your attention and sight on the flame of the candle. Watch as the flame flickers. Immerse yourself in the color, shape, and light of the candle, staying focused for five minutes. Gently blow out the candle before going to sleep. As with any mediation, if your mind wanders, refocus your attention – whether that focus is on the body, the voice, or the light.
Sleep leads to overall improved health.
We need sleep to heal our bodies, repair our muscles, consolidate our memories, and boost our immune system. Sleep is necessary to maintain a proper functioning body. Research shows that Americans would be happier and healthier with just an extra 60 – 90 minutes of sleep each night. So, next time you're counting sheep instead of ZZ's, try one of these techniques.
I'd love to hear how it goes for you!
Jessica Crow helps people harness the power of meditation and mindfulness to change their own lives and the lives of others through practical courses and personalized mentorship.
Find out more about the next 100- Hour online CNTRD Meditation Teacher Training starting April 9th, and her new book 'The Power of Guided Meditation'.