In today’s day and age, there are many things in our lives that cause us stress or need our attention. Our minds are constantly occupied and it can be difficult to get to sleep. Mindfulness and meditation are ways to quiet your body and mind before bed to help you sleep.
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing. Mindfulness can be applied to any aspect of your life: practice mindfulness when you’re stressed at work or home, do breathing exercises when you need help focusing on difficult tasks, and apply meditation for sleep.
People willing to try meditations can reap a long list of benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, better focus, improved creativity, and a better sleep.
How common are sleep problems?
The four most common sleep disorders are insomnia, Sleep Apnoea, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and Snoring. They can affect up to 50% of people, stopping them from getting a good night’s rest.
Approximately half of all people have experienced symptoms of insomnia. Insomnia is characterised as having poor sleep quality due to one or more of the following:
- Difficulty getting to sleep at night
- Waking frequently in the middle of the night with trouble returning to sleep
- Waking earlier in the morning than planned or desired
Sleep apnoea is the second most prevalent sleep disorder, however, it’s estimated that up to 80% of people with sleep apnoea may not even realise they have it. People with sleep apnoea have one or more pauses in breathing or take shallow breaths in their sleep.
Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. Sleep apnoea can cause more than interrupted sleep; if left untreated, it can lead to serious cardiological problems.
Snoring is perhaps the most common sleep problem; it’s almost certain you or someone you know snores. Up to 40% of men and 20% of women snore on a regular basis.
Snoring happens when structures in the throat collapse during sleep, causing noisy vibrations and restricted airflow. It gets worse with age and weight gain.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Roughly 10% of adults and 2% of children suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS) to varying degrees.
This sleep disorder is characterised by a persistent, sometimes overwhelming need to move one’s legs while resting. This compulsive urge to move makes it difficult for the sufferer to relax and slip into a deep sleep.
What are the effects of poor sleep on the body?
A lack of sleep can negatively affect a person’s quality (and length) of life. It lowers our immune defences, affects our brain’s ability to function, and has a knock-on effect to vital parts of our physical and mental wellbeing.
Research has also suggested that “’abnormal sleeping patterns’ characterised as significantly shorter or longer sleeping periods of 7 hours was related to coronary heart disease.” The National Sleep Foundation has said that ‘there is a wealth of research indicating that people with insomnia have poorer overall health, more work absenteeism, and a higher incidence of depression’.
How can meditation for sleep help you?
The aim of mindfulness meditation is to focus on your thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations. This allows you to tune out of stress and worry, and relax, so you can sleep deeper for longer.
If you’re new to mindfulness meditation, the easiest way to get started is through guided meditation and relaxation exercises that you can do at home.
Scientific research is increasingly showing that meditations can help overcome a large number of problems, especially stress related ones like depression and sleep disturbance.
Dr Herbert Benson, Director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine recognises the power of mindfulness meditation for sleep. “Mindfulness meditation is just one of a smorgasbord of techniques that evoke the relaxation response,” says Dr Benson. “For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress.”
Guided Mindfulness meditations for home
Mindfulness meditation can help you overcome obstacles and get a better night’s sleep. Don’t know where to begin? Try the following mindfulness meditation techniques.
Breathing awareness exercise
As you’re lying comfortably in bed, bring your awareness to your breathing; breathe deeply through the nose and focus on your breath coming in and going out.
There’s no right way to breathe, just whatever is natural to you. Concentrate on the sensation of the rising and falling of the belly or chest, can you feel it? Take note of the temperature of the air, and any scents or tastes.
Breathe in positive or calming thoughts and breathe out any frustrations or worries. Your mind may wander and different thoughts will come to you—if they do, gently bring your focus back to your breathing.
You can do this for as long or as short as you would like, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing. To help keep your focus, count your breaths from 1 to 10, and then again from the top. Bit by bit, let your body relax into your mattress until you feel relaxed.
Body scan relaxation
As you’re lying comfortably in bed, bring your awareness to how your body feels against the mattress and mentally scan each part of your body from top to bottom. If your thoughts wander, bring your focus back to breathing.
Start by imagining your brain leaving your head and travelling down to your feet. Tighten and then relax your foot, then up through your calf, knee and thigh. Let each tighten and then relax as you move up.
Then repeat the exercise with your other leg. Following this, start with a hand and work your way up both arms. Eventually, you can scan, tense and relax your back, stomach, chest, shoulders, head and face.
The goal of this relaxation exercise if for your limbs to feel heavy and sink into your mattress. Again, if your thoughts wander, gently bring your focus back to your muscles.
This technique builds upon breathing meditation and is about creating a mental image that helps you relax. Try visualising a light surrounding your body that glows brighter the more you breathe; whether it feels warm, fills your body, or grows brighter or larger is entirely up to you.
A more complex version is to visualise an entire landscape such as a paradise, whatever that is to you. Try to imagine the sights, sounds and smells of that environment and lose yourself in it until you drift off.
Mindful yoga classes are an integration of basic Hatha and restorative yoga poses along with Buddhist witnessing of the body. Yoga’s inherent nature is awareness of the body and breath.
Mindful yoga classes simply give more time and attention to the process; yoga class is a great laboratory for becoming more mindful. Surrounding yourself with uncontrollable external conditions—traffic noise, boredom or restlessness, your neighbour’s sweat or your tight hamstrings—forces you to react or submit.
Mindful yoga classes aim to help you get more out of your yoga class and to feel less reactive about things that you usually find irritating and distracting. The most common pose practiced is generally Savasana (Corpse Pose).
Lie on your back with your feet 30 to 45 centimetres apart, arms at your sides a few inches away from the torso with the palms up. Surrender the full weight of your body to gravity.
Bring your awareness to your breath, wherever you feel it in the body. Let go of any tendency to manipulate it; simply know an in-breath as an in-breath, an out-breath as an out-breath. Submit to the breath and its qualities: deep or shallow, fast or slow, rough or smooth, even or uneven.
Scan the body. Is it fully released or still holding tension? When the mind wanders, note any irritation and judgment, and bring it back to the breath and the body.
Yoga Nidra (Yogic sleep)
Primarily, Yoga nidra is a meditation technique. However, it offers many therapeutic benefits as well:
- Great for insomniacs
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- A less daunting way to practice meditation
- Removes tiredness and fatigue
Yoga nidra also uses Savasana (Corpse Pose) as it’s basis, however, the goal of Yoga nidra is to tap into deeper layers of the mind and explore the subconscious in a way that is meaningful for how you relate to the world in your waking life.
Practising before actual sleep is beneficial because it’s an excellent technique for inducing lucid dreaming and out-of-the-body experiences during sleep. During yogic sleep, try to focus on individual parts of the body. Mentally name each part, then feel it as distinctly as possible.
Only the body and brain are fast asleep, whereas awareness is continuous allowing you to explore what can be uncomfortable emotions in a safe space, which you then have the potential to tackle in a calmer, more considered way when awake.
Listening to guided meditation is a great way to immerse yourself into the world of meditation without having to do any background research. It’s also a great way to distract your mind from all your thoughts and relax at night.
Add a quick meditation to your bedtime routine to calm your mind and improve your sleep quality.
It can be difficult to get to sleep; up to 50% of people or their partners suffer from disorders stopping them from getting a good night’s rest. Mindfulness meditations can help overcome many problems, especially stress related ones, which allow you to tune out of stresses and worries, and relax.
Those who practice mindfulness and relaxation before bed reap a long list of benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, better focus, improved creativity, and a better sleep.
When taking our mattresses for a test drive, hop on up, close your eyes, and relax right through the softer comfort layers and down into the support system at the base of the mattress.
At Relax Bedding our biggest joy is helping you get the bedroom you’ve been dreaming of so you can drift off without a care. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you and our dedication to quality and customer service, get in touch with us.
Meditation for sleep resources
Free Sleep Resources from MIT Medical
Online Meditation Courses
- The Mindfulness App
- Smiling Mind
- “Mindfulness: a practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
- Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
- Yoga Nidra, A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing (book and CD) by Richard Miller
- Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress Relief (including downloadable audio meditation recording) by Julie Lusk
Free Online Guided Meditation
Free Yoga Nidra Video Resources
- Yoga Nidra for Insomnia and Deep Sleep
- ~YOGA NIDRA~ a 40-minute practice
- Yoga Nidra Therapy – Deep Inner Peace and Tranquility
- ~Yoga Nidra~Manifest your Heart’s Desire