Meditation improves my sleep by helping me relax and fall into a state of mindfulness. This gets me to go to sleep faster and enjoy a better night’s rest.
Meditation has improved my sleep at night
Getting better sleep is part of my path to improving my health and fitness. I have read that mindfulness meditation improves sleep significantly. Recently I have been using it and other techniques to fall asleep faster, sleep deeper and wake up more refreshed.
My general mediation practice calms my waking mind and improves my waking hours. Now I want to hone in specifically on meditating as an aid when going to sleep.
But getting better sleep isn’t always easy. I often suffer from sleep deprivation because I have a rotten routine when it comes to getting the restorative rest I need. I don’t go to bed at a regular time, I don’t have a sleep routine. My sleep is often fitful and my dreams can induce unease. I don’t wake to feel well-rested on a lot of mornings.
Improving sleep improves health
Meditation not only improves sleep. A proper night’s sleep is important to overall health. It restores the body and reduces anxiety. It can also boost glucose metabolism and lower my risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Some studies suggest that getting quality sleep is the most valuable thing a person can do for their health and longevity.
Yet, nearly half of the population will struggle with insomnia at some point. And it becomes more common as we get older.
Poor sleep habits affect everything from the likelihood of weight gain to increased risks of heart disease and strokes. Additionally, it impacts alertness and concentration, contributes to depression, and messes with our immune systems.
People who have good sleep habits tend to consume fewer calories, exercise more, suffer less from inflammation, and have better social interactions.
But what is quality sleep? Is it the amount of time you spend actually sleeping or the depth and calm of that sleep?
Most adults seem to need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep in order to function at their best. But how much of that is quality sleep? Not the nodding off and barely awake stage, but the deep sleep where hormones get pumped into the bloodstream, when breathing deepens and slows, and when the brain opens doors to the subconscious and sends out dreams.
Arnold Schwarzenegger said in an interview that we all have the same 24 hours in our day to achieve whatever we want. It was all about how we spent it. If we slept for 6 hours a night, we still have 18 hours to chase our goals. “What about the rule that we need 8 hours of sleep?” he asked rhetorically. “Well, I suggest you sleep faster”.
So, is it reasonable that we can train ourselves to sleep faster? Can we hack our sleep patterns and get the full benefit of the rest we need in less time? If there is a way to do it, I’ll bet it is through meditation.
Meditation changes your brain
I’ve already noted how regular mindfulness meditation can change the physical structure of the brain after only a few weeks. Meditation has also been used to change ingrained habits and behavior. Quitting smoking, losing weight, increasing self-esteem, and overcoming trauma are all behavioral issues that can be modified by meditating. So I think it is possible that a focused meditation could improve the mindset of those looking to improve their sleep habits.
There have been studies showing that meditation improves sleep. One study compared the efforts of a group of people practicing mindfulness meditation with a group that didn’t. In the studies, the people who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who did not meditate.
The results indicate that becoming skilled in meditation may help control or calm the “monkey-mind” that often leads to insomnia. Most insomnia is thought to be brought on by anxiety, and meditation is used to treat anxiety all the time.
Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep. Regularly doing this kind of practice can basically rewire your brain and make peaceful sleep a habit.
Setting myself up for sleep success
There are lots of ways recommended to help relax and prepare for bed. While I cannot incorporate them all, I really don’t think I need to. I think that by focusing on a few key techniques, I can put myself to sleep faster and get more value from my nighttime slumbers, even as I strive to make the sleep sessions shorter.
Here is the basic plan I’m going to follow for about a month. After that time I will reevaluate and tweak as necessary.
- Go to bed and get up on a consistent schedule, including on the weekends. This will be a tough one since it will require me to change my lifestyle habits.
- Don’t eat less than hours before bedtime. This should be handled by my diet plan.
- Don’t use electronic devices or watch tv before going to bed. Tough. I usually read books on the Ipad before sleeping. I can get a filter to cut the blue light from the device.
- Cut down on the lights at night. Get my body into the day/night circadian rhythm by lower lights after the sun goes down.
- Keep a restful bedroom environment conducive to sleep. Right now I can’t do much about my bed and mattress. But I can make sure I have a comfortable pillow, clean sheets, and a weighty bedspread. Keeping the room clean, uncluttered and cozy will help me feel more comfortable, too.
- Have a focused meditation routine for going to sleep. And this, of course, it what it is all about. I want a routine that takes me step by step through relaxing and falling to sleep. Ultimately, I’d like to fall asleep with 10 deep breaths. It may not be realistic. However, I can make some healthy progress on the way to trying.