American novelist Scott F. Fitzgerald once wrote: “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.” Many who struggle to sleep well at night might agree with this. Poor sleep quality or quantity negatively impacts our mind, our body, and our spirit. Therefore, doing what we can to improve our hours spent in slumber is crucial for our wellbeing.
Guided sleep meditations are one free and accessible way to enhance deep rest. Many people around the world turn to meditation to sleep better – and for good reasons. We will explore those reasons and more in this comprehensive guide on using meditation for sleep.
How Meditation Helps Us Sleep Better
Why is it that so many people turn to meditation to sleep better? Is this simply a new hype or is there science behind this trend? Over the past decades, much research has been done to look at the connection between meditation and sleep. Science has revealed a variety of potential explanations for why this sleep technique is indeed helpful for so many – and which type of meditations might be supportive in this way. Some of those findings include:
Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and anxiety.
One of the reasons that many people experience difficulties with sleep is due to stress and anxiety. When we are stressed, our physiology is on high alert. Cortisol levels are heightened, and when this becomes chronic, it can interfere with sleep. Since mindfulness meditation can induce the relaxation response, this may be one of the reasons people find this technique supportive of sleep.
Research suggests that visualization can also induce relaxation and support sleep.
Another common meditation for sleep technique is visualization. Visualization involves the creation of mental images – and in sleep meditations, the focus is on cultivating mental imagery that evokes peace, ease, and relaxation. Where stress and anxiety are contributing to sleep issues, visualization may be supportive.
Mindfulness meditation may be effective in reducing chronic pain, which is a root cause of sleep issues for many.
One study looked at the impact of mindfulness meditation on sleep-related outcomes in individuals with fibromyalgia syndrome. The results found that the intervention led to significant improvements across all measures as compared to a control group. For those struggling with fibromyalgia, mindfulness meditation may therefore be supportive.
Mindfulness techniques can improve sleep quality by enhancing emotion regulation.
Furthermore, another study that found that between intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and hyperarousal and lower overall sleep quality there existed a correlation. This study found that mindfulness can be of support in sleep issues where these factors are present as the technique of mindfulness can increase self-awareness and support non-reactivity to negative thoughts. This supports emotion regulation.
These are just a selection of some of the potential explanations for why certain types of meditation can support us in falling asleep. Since there are many different types of meditation (i.e. body scans, mindfulness of breathing, TCM), there is no single mechanism to explain why the practice is generally helpful. Bear in mind that some meditation styles are more activating than others and that the ones used for sleep are more mindful, nurturing, or calming in nature. Seek out meditations that are explicitly designed for sleep or that use techniques that help to calm and relax mind and body.
A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.