What can meditation not do? As researchers continue to do more research on different types of meditation, they continue to find many benefits of the practice. What we're most interested in right now is that meditation can help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and improve the quality of sleep. Also, unlike some pills and supplements, there is no risk of negative side effects.
Read on to learn how meditation can lead to better sleep, the best ways to practice it, and some top meditation guides to ease you into sleep.
Meditation causes a series of changes in the body and is more effective at promoting sleep than counting sheep. For example, researchers reviewed 18 trials with 1,600 participants for a meta-analysis that was published in 2019 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. They found that people who practiced mindfulness meditation had the same improvements in sleep quality as those who used other proven sleep therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or relaxation training, five months and a year after the study ended.
In a small 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, adults 55 and older with moderate sleep disorders learned good sleep habits or mindfulness practices such as sitting meditation, mindful eating, mindful walking, and mindfulness meditation. After six weeks, the mindfulness group showed significant improvements in insomnia and fatigue compared to the other group. Other studies have also suggested that meditation may help insomnia to the same extent as medication.
Several factors may be at work here. First, some studies have shown that meditation increases melatonin, which rises at night and triggers the urge to sleep. In addition, meditation can boost theta activity in the brain. These waves promote deep relaxation, which may cause you to nod off.
Data shows that people around the world have adapted to the lifestyle changes caused by the pandemic by meditating more and, in most cases, sleeping longer.
Meditation can also activate the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down our breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, explains Nama Shivaya's meditation coach, Islamic Cathedral Card. "These things help shut down the sympathetic nervous system that controls our fight or flight response."
Add in how meditation can help reduce rumination, and it's clear why meditation is particularly effective for people with stress and anxiety.