Sleep & Meditation
The Benefits of Meditation for Sleep – How To Get Your Best Zzz’s
Sure — we all love a good night’s sleep. Who doesn’t relish the feeling of relaxing onto a soft bed, and waking up refreshed and ready to welcome a new day?
This may sound like a luxury, with the busy lives we lead. But sleep may be more important than you ever realized. Not only does it help us feel great (and chug less coffee) – it’s vital to our overall health and quality of life. In fact, any kind of insomnia or sleep disturbance we experience is associated with compromised health.
So… just what does sleep do for us and how can a guided sleep meditation program help?
The Science Behind our Snores
Sleep is reported to be associated with reducing our blood pressure, respiratory rates and oxygen consumption. Plus, sleep helps bring down our levels of anxiety and arousal. Our temperature goes down, and our heart rate slows. In fact, scientists hypothesize that one of the primary functions of sleep may be to be conserve our energy.And while all these functions slow down, some physiological processes may increase during sleep. Take growth hormones, for example. Some activities associated with digestion and cell repair increase during sleep, making sleep a crucial time for our bodies to grow and repair.
As important as we know sleep to be, all of us have trouble making it happen at times. Stress at work, challenges at home, anxiety, and even chronic pain and illness can keep us up at night and deprive us of those good night rests. Aging is another challenge to our sleep patterns — as we age, deep sleep time decreases, disrupting our peaceful nights and making active days a little harder.
Fortunately, there are more and more studies showing that there is a wonderful thing we can do for our sleep deprivations – meditation! And help is just around the corner. There are many different guided meditation sleep programs to choose from such as Breethe. Want to find out more?
How Meditation Helps You Sleep Soundly – and Live Brightly!
Deep sleep meditation is much more than a relaxation technique. Meditation practices have been found to have strong effects on the body’s physiology. In fact, practicing meditation can influence brain functions, metabolic and endocrine, and immune functions, to name a few.
When it comes to sleep, scientists know that insomnia is not just a nighttime struggle, but often a problem of hyperarousal throughout the day. So a study by the American Academy of Sleep medicine took a group of people with chronic insomnia and had them meditate over a two-month period. Results indicated that patients saw improvements in all sorts of sleep measures: sleep latency, total sleep time, total wake time, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, sleep quality… and depression. Yes, all of these improved in patients who practiced meditation!1
What’s more, research following practitioners of meditation have shown that these meditators experience a state of “restful alertness.” Just what does that mean? More connectivity in the frontal centers of the brain, those areas that control impulsive actions, judgment, and social cues.2 And studies have shown that those who practice meditation spend more time in slow wave sleep, and get more REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
And what about melatonin, the crucial regulatory hormone that is used widely to help with jetlag, insomnia, and more? Well, melatonin doesn’t just help with sleep — it’s an antioxidant and immunomodulator, helping to normalize the immune system; an antiaging agent; and it helps bring a sense of wellbeing. Lucky for you, if you meditate you’ll get a boost in those melatonin levels, as well as mood-stabilizing serotonin.
Click on this page for some meditation benefits.
Wondering if meditation could help you sleep like a kid again? Read on to find out how a little mindfulness and a little breathing can help you get your very precious zzz’s.
A Cure for Restless Nights
Having trouble falling asleep, or waking up and struggling to get back to sleep, is a problem for millions of people every year. Can meditation for sleep help?
Researchers found that when they combined cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness meditation — which helps us become aware of the present moment — the results were awesome. Not only did participants sleep better during the study, but they maintained those positive benefits for a year follow-up period.3 Showing that not only does meditation help you today… but for days to come!
Slow the Gray!
Ever noticed that as you get older, you seem to sleep less? Aging means changes start to happen in our “sleep architecture” – that’s the fancy word for the patterns of our sleep. But just because we get less sleep doesn’t mean we need less! Fortunately for all of us, researchers have found that mindfulness meditation can bolster the quality of our sleep . While aging is known to reduce the activity of the mechanism that generates slow wave sleep, or our deepest sleep, researchers have found that meditation appears to preserve the SWS, suggesting that meditation could prevent the age-associated changes in the slow wave generating mechanisms.4 And that isn’t the only benefit: mindfulness meditation also seems to reduce the severity of sleep-related daytime impairment, like symptoms of depression and fatigue.5 That means better sleep, and better quality of waking life.
Soothe those Aches and Pains
It’s not just an active mind that can keep you up at night. Pain makes it hard to get your rest, and less rest means even longer days. Researchers using a variety of mindfulness meditation methods, from increased body awareness to direct meditation sessions, gave a big boost to adults suffering from severe pain. Not only did the participants report less pain – but they also reported better attention, enhanced well-being, and improved quality of life!6 Now isn’t that what we all want some more of?
Combatting Cancer’s Side Effects
Anyone who has had cancer, or lived through a friend or family member’s diagnosis and treatment, knows how many difficulties they face along the long road of treatment. And while sleep disturbance is a common problem, it isn’t one that’s always addressed – even though it can have huge implications for quality of life. One study looked to find out if mindfulness meditation could have a positive effect — and got great results! Overall sleep disturbance was significantly reduced in patients — plus they saw reductions in stress and fatigue.7 And when you’re dealing with a diagnosis and disease as tough as this, a little less worry can mean all the difference.
Chase the Worries
While researchers continue to study the amazing effects of meditation and mindfulness training, when it comes to improving the quality of our everyday busy lives, some of the results are in. Researchers who reviewed studies across the board found that mindfulness techniques help people decrease worry; and another discovered beneficial effects on anxiety symptoms and stress, as participants acquired better coping mechanisms for creating a sense of calm and focus.8 All of which makes for a better night’s rest.
If you haven’t tried meditation yet, you’ll find out that it can be pretty easy to learn how to meditate! Whether you’re struggling with pain, aging, anxiety, or just a little more stress from time to time, you can’t afford to miss out on a good night’s rest. So take a seat – and start meditating yourself into some peaceful dreamtime.
Watch Lynne talk about sleep and meditation in this video:
So we get a lot of questions about meditation and insomnia, actually.
And if you’re one of those people who has a hard time falling asleep then you know exactly what we’re talking about. You get into bed, and – for whatever reason, maybe it’s because you’ve had a hard day – your mind is going through those things over and over again, and you really have a hard time falling asleep. And then it happens repeatedly and now all of the sudden you start to get anxious about going to sleep.
Or maybe you have no problem at all, you fall asleep like that, but then you wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and you worry about what happened yesterday, or maybe you’re thinking about your to-do list for tomorrow.
So actually, meditation can help you. And one of the great things about meditation is that when we practice meditation, we actually practice letting go. And falling asleep is kind of the same thing, you have to let go.
So when we meditate, what we actually do is we start watching our thoughts, and then coming back to the object of our attention. So you notice the thought, and then you let it go and you come back to the breath. Well falling asleep is really the same idea.
And not only does meditation help with that process, but it also can improve the sleep quality because when you meditate you actually release serotonin and melatonin – two things that actually improve sleep quality.
So if you’re getting the hang of it and you’re not exactly sure how to go about this, on our app we actually have a bunch of sleep meditations that can really help you. So just check it out, and let us know how you feel!
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Meditation May Be An Effective Treatment For Insomnia.” ScienceDaily, 15 June 2009. Read here
F Travis, A Arenander, Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Study of Effects of Transcendental Meditation Practice on Interhemispheric Frontal Asymmetry and Frontal Coherence, International Journal of Neuroscience, Volume 116 Issue 12, 2006. Read here
JC Ong, S Shapiro, R Manber, Combining Mindfulness Meditation with Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Insomnia: A Treatment-Development Study, Behavior Therapy, Volume 39, Issue 2, June 2008, Pages 171–182. Read here
RP Nagendra, N Maruthai, BM Kutty, Meditation and Its Regulatory Role on Sleep, Front Neurol. 2012; 3: 54. Read here
DS Black, GA O’Reilly, R Olmstead, EC Breen, MR Irwin. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):494-501. Read here
NE Morone , CS Lynch, CM Greco, HA Tindle, Debra K. Weiner, “I Felt Like a New Person.” The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Older Adults With Chronic Pain: Qualitative Narrative Analysis of Diary Entries, The Journal of Pain, Volume 9, Issue 9, September 2008, Pages 841–848. Read here
LE Carlson, SN Garland, Impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on sleep, mood, stress and fatigue symptoms in cancer outpatients, International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2005, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 278-285. Read here
EA Hoge et al, Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity, J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Aug; 74(8): 786–792. >Read here