Meditation & Sleep: Help mind and body relax

Sleep disorders can strike at any time and affect people of all ages and walks of life. One of the most common disorders is insomnia, which is believed to affect one in three people. Insomnia is often caused by stress, anxiety, or by a disrupted body clock -- when you keep irregular hours, and your body can’t adjust.

There are other disorders that can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. Some have a physical cause, as is the case of obstructive sleep apnea, which blocks the upper airways and causes breathing interruptions. 

If you have sleep apnea, you might also have insomnia at times -- a double-whammy for sleep-deprived people.Whether temporary or chronic, these disorders can impact your physical and emotional well-being. This is why it’s important to identify their root cause and to seek treatment as soon as they appear. It is also helpful to take a proactive approach and prevent the appearance of sleep disorders, or to develop tools that can help you cope with them. 

Set a regular sleep schedule

Having a solid bedtime routine is one of those tools. Since humans are creatures of habit, training your mind and body can go a long way in improving your quality of life – and your quality of sleep, too. When it comes to getting a restful night, everyone can benefit from healthy habits, and meditation is one of them.

Try meditation 

Meditation has been used for thousands of years as an effective relaxation technique to bring inner peace. If you are stressed and this anxious state is causing sleeping difficulties, meditating before going to bed can minimize stress and put you in the right frame of mind. 

Meditation can help irrespective of what is causing your sleeping problems and even if they have a physical cause, like obstructive sleep apnea. This is because meditating doesn’t just help settle our mind, but also changes the way our bodies respond to worry and stress. According to researchers, regular meditation can improve our ability to control the nervous system, and there are studies to confirm it. 

Studies support meditation

For example, a 2015 medical study recruited adults who had moderate sleeping difficulties. Participants were split into two groups: one group was asked to follow a meditation practice for 6 weeks, and the other was not. The results showed that people who meditated experienced an improvement in their symptoms. 

Other studies have found a connection between practicing meditation and the increased production of melatonin. This hormone is responsible for regulating the body’s sleeping and waking cycles, and the higher its levels are, the more likely you will be to get a restful night. Similarly, research has shown that meditation can increase serotonin levels. This hormone has a mood stabilizing effect and is necessary for the production of melatonin.

Multiple benefits from meditation

Meditating frequently can lower your heart rate and decrease blood pressure. Doing this before going to bed is the perfect way of helping your mind and body wind down. 
Other benefits of meditating at bedtime include:

  • It doesn’t require any special equipment or lots of space.
  • It’s a low-risk activity that can be done by virtually everyone.
  • There are several meditation styles to choose from: mindfulness, guided meditation, body scans, etc.
  • Meditation can help during the day too by improving your concentration ability and minimizing daytime fatigue.

Types of meditation

Meditation is easy to do and free, but will take a little practice before you find what calms you best. You will probably want to begin with 3 to 5 minutes of meditation. You can gradually increase this time as you learn how to avoid distractions and keep the mind clear.

There are a number of meditation techniques, and they all depend on finding a quiet spot to lay or sit down without any distractions such as screens and phones. 

You will then close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing, slowly breathing in and out. When thoughts and ideas wander into your head, dismiss them and return the focus back on to your breathing.

Body Scan Meditation

This technique can be particularly beneficial if you have a physical disorder such as sleep apnea that impacts your sleep. Focus upon specific areas of your body in order to appreciate the physical sensations. It is normally wise to begin at the top (such as the crown of your head) and work your way down. This method will enable you to center your mind and to relax before going to bed.

Mindfulness Meditation

This technique is all about focusing on the present and paying attention to your body. You are looking to evoke relaxation by taking control of your thoughts. If any thoughts enter the mind, you note them and let them go without making any judgements on yourself. Mindfulness meditation looks to use a relaxation response rather than a stress response.

Guided Meditation

As the name suggests you are guided through this meditation technique by an instructor. You may be asked to relax certain areas of the body or possibly to visualize calming images or scenes. This technique offers flexibility in approach while you find what works best for you. Podcasts, apps, online streaming platforms or your local library are all possible sources for guided meditation tools.

Certainly, meditation cannot cure your symptoms of sleep apnea. It is nonetheless a powerful tool which can be used in conjunction with medically proven techniques. The ability to fall asleep fast and to obtain a good night’s rest eludes countless individuals -- and yet, the power of the mind will go a long way towards keeping you healthy.