10-minute Sleep Meditation

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By now, you’ve hopefully gotten accustomed to preparing your body and mind for sleep by using breathing and counting exercises to clear your head. If you haven’t, check out the first 10-minute meditation in our spring Better Sleep Series here. Next up, we’re focusing on improving the quality of your shuteye to help you feel more rested.

Have you ever gotten seven to eight hours a night and woken up feeling like you haven’t slept a wink? Most likely it’s because you didn’t spend much time in a deep sleep state—the third phase of sleep. The first two phases, preceding deep sleep, are waking and dreaming. Reaching deep sleep is optimal for feeling recharged. This meditation’s mission is to maximize your duration in this state.

To go into a deep sleep, a few things need to happen. First, your body needs to be at total rest. Second, your mind also needs to be free of thoughts, which naturally happens when you’re asleep. Third, your mind needs to be relaxed. That means when you’re falling asleep, and in the hours before bedtime, you’re not having any stressful, worrying, or negative thoughts. These types of thoughts encourage your mind to stay at a surface level during sleep because they’re keeping you in a stimulated, agitated state rather than a calm one.

In this meditation, we’ll achieve these three requirements together. You’ll learn to run through a mental checklist to assess whether you’re really truly relaxed and ready to go to bed. You’ll start by checking your body: Where are you holding tension? Where can that tension be released? Then, you’ll check your mind: What is your state of mind? Are you carrying any mental burdens at this given moment? Next, you’ll check your breath: Is it in your throat, chest, or belly?

Lastly, it’s important to always have some happy thoughts or memories before you doze off to help counterbalance anything stressful that happened during the day. Since people normally wake up in the morning with the same thoughts they had when they fell asleep, this is even more crucial. Positive thoughts not only impact your ability to reach deep sleep, but also the entire following day. Though I won’t prompt you to think positive thoughts during the actual meditation, I will encourage you to turn your attention to something you’re grateful for or happy about should you find your mind wandering in the moments before you fall asleep.

How can meditation help with sleep? 

When you meditate, a variety of physiological changes occur. These changes initiate sleep by influencing specific processes in your body.

For example, in a 2015 study published in JAMA Internal MedicineTrusted Source, researchers analyzed how mindfulness meditation affected 49 adults with moderate sleep issues. The participants were randomly assigned 6 weeks of meditation or sleep hygiene education. At the end of the study, the meditation group experienced fewer insomnia symptoms and less daytime fatigue.

According to the researchers, meditation likely helps in several ways. Sleep problems often stem from stress and worry, but meditation improves your relaxation response. It also improves control of the autonomic nervous system, which reduces how easily you’re awakened.

Meditation may also:

  1. increase melatonin (the sleep hormone)
  2. increase serotonin (precursor of melatonin)
  3. reduce heart rate
  4. decrease blood pressure
  5. activate parts of the brain that control sleep

Your body experiences similar changes in the early stages of sleep. As a result, meditation can promote sleep by initiating these changes.

How to meditate

Meditation is a simple practice that can be done anywhere, anytime. You don’t need special tools or equipment. In fact, the only thing you need is a few minutes.

However, establishing a meditation routine takes practice. By making time for meditation, you’ll be more likely to enjoy its benefits.

Here are the basic steps of meditation:

  1. Find a quiet area. Sit or lie down, depending on what feels most comfortable. Lying down is preferable at bedtime.
  2. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Inhale and exhale deeply. Focus on your breathing.
  3. If a thought pops up, let it go and refocus on your breathing.

As you try meditation for sleep, be patient with yourself. A meditation practice is just that — a practice. Start by meditating for 3 to 5 minutes before bed. Over time, slowly increase the time to 15 to 20 minutes. It’ll take time to learn how to quiet your mind.

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