5 Meditations for Sleep

Is there anything that meditation can't do? As researchers delve deeper into the various forms of meditation, they continually unveil the numerous advantages of this practice. Currently, our primary focus is on how meditation can contribute to falling asleep, staying asleep, and enhancing sleep quality. Moreover, unlike certain pills and supplements, there's no risk of adverse side effects.

sleep meditation

Continue reading to understand how meditation can lead to improved sleep, the optimal way to practice, and some recommended guided meditations to gently guide you into the realm of dreams.

Why meditate for sleep? Meditation initiates a series of physiological changes that are considerably more effective than the traditional counting of sheep in promoting a state of rest. For instance, a meta-analysis published in 2019 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reviewed 18 trials involving 1,600 participants. The findings revealed that individuals practicing mindfulness meditation exhibited sleep quality improvements comparable to those achieved through other established sleep treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or relaxation training, both five months and a year after the studies concluded.

In a 2015 small-scale study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, adults aged 55 and older with moderate sleep disturbances were taught either good sleep habits or mindfulness exercises like sitting meditation, mindful eating, mindful walking, and loving-kindness meditation. After six weeks, the mindfulness group demonstrated significant improvements in insomnia and fatigue compared to the other group. Other studies also indicate that meditation may be as effective as medication in addressing insomnia.

Several factors may contribute to these effects. Firstly, research suggests that meditation may increase melatonin, the hormone that naturally rises in the evening and induces the desire to sleep. Additionally, meditation may enhance the activity of theta waves in the brain, which promote deep relaxation, potentially facilitating a smoother transition into sleep.

BP Doctor data indicates that people worldwide have adjusted to lifestyle changes induced by the pandemic by incorporating more meditation into their routines and, for the most part, enjoying longer sleep durations. In October 2020, our research team's analysis of aggregated user data revealed a global increase of 2,900 percent in meditation, accompanied by a parallel increase in sleep duration. (It's important to note that the rise in both meditation and sleep was not correlated in these BP Doctor findings; both were lifestyle behavior changes brought on by the pandemic.) Talk about turning adversity into an opportunity!

Meditation also engages the parasympathetic nervous system, regulating our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure, as explained by Jami Carder, a certified Nama Shivaya meditation instructor. "These effects help deactivate the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for our fight-or-flight response."

Consider how meditation can assist in reducing rumination, and it becomes evident why meditation may be particularly potent for individuals experiencing stress and anxiety.

How to meditate for better sleep There's no single "best" way to meditate, regardless of your motivation for practicing. Some meditation instructors recommend both morning and evening sessions. If this seems overwhelming, begin with a nightly meditation, ideally not too close to bedtime. For some individuals, meditation alleviates stress but may make them more alert, notes world-renowned meditation master Yogmata Keiko Aikawa. Consequently, aim for an evening meditation about an hour or two before bedtime. If you find yourself so relaxed that you fall asleep, consider adjusting your meditation time.

Moreover, there's no prescribed duration for meditation. "You can experience benefits from as little as five minutes a day, although daily practice is ideal," suggests Carder. "As you become more comfortable, you'll likely find yourself meditating for longer periods."

Sleep meditation recommendations Guided meditations are particularly beneficial for beginners or those seeking practices tailored to sleep. "Choosing a guide with a soothing voice is helpful," notes Carder. "With millions of meditations available, there's something for everyone."

Explore the following meditations we recommend from BP Doctor Premium. To access them, simply initiate your 90-day free trial of Premium and then visit the Premium tab in your BP Doctor app.

PREPARE FOR SLEEP WITH PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION In this 10-minute meditation, Deepak Chopra will guide you through a body scan. Commencing with deep breathing, you'll progress from feet to head, focusing on each body part. For each part, briefly hold tension before releasing, experiencing the subsequent relaxation of surrounding areas. By the end, your body will be pleasantly limp, akin to melting into your mattress.

RETURN TO RESTFUL SLEEP The voice in this Aura meditation carries a subtle ASMR effect—a tingling sensation typically felt from the head down the neck and sometimes to the spine. Even if you don't sense this, the seven-minute practice may help you return to sleep by affirming relaxation through repeated "I am" statements, allowing your body to take control and guiding you back to deep, restorative slumber.

HOW TO FALL ASLEEP "The body knows how to fall asleep. Sometimes the mind gets in the way," remarks Jeff Warren of Ten Percent Happier at the beginning of this 10-minute meditation. To immerse yourself in your body and minimize mental interference, this practice encourages you to pretend you're falling asleep—adjusting your breathing pattern while half-watching any mental images that arise.

SLEEP IS THE BEST MEDICINE Clocking in at 17 minutes, this longer meditation involves less verbal guidance. An Aaptiv meditation teacher first explains how altering our breathing activates the "rest and digest" part of the nervous system. Subsequently, you'll conduct a very slow body scan, incorporating deep breathing that promotes relaxation. The gentle music played when the teacher isn't speaking further facilitates drifting into sleep.

EQUAL BREATHING EXERCISE FOR SLEEP A BP Doctor original, this 20-minute practice guides you through equal breathing: inhale, hold, exhale, and hold, all for the same duration. This aids in relaxing the mind and reducing stress, facilitating a smoother transition into sleep. Rest assured, you won't be holding your breath indefinitely; the duration gradually increases from four seconds to eight seconds.

Throughout the practice, pay attention to your body. While you may reach eight seconds, if it doesn't feel right, adjust the time periods to what suits you best.

Would you like to try these sleep meditations—and explore everything else that Premium offers? Sign up for your 90-day free trial here. Please note that it's not available in all markets where Premium is offered, and it's available in English only.