meditation for sleep

Let me tell you about how I cured my insomnia by using meditation techniques for sleep. And I’ll share the best sleep-meditation scripts with you.

For three years at university, I didn’t sleep at all. I lay awake at night staring at the ceiling, my eyes red and dry, my mind empty yet somehow full at the same time.

insomnia counting sheep
insomnia counting sheep

Lying there in bed unable to sleep, I started to just focus my mind on my breathing, unaware that this is a type of meditation. This is how I started getting into meditation by using it to get to sleep at night.

After I started using meditation for insomnia, I quickly got the rest I needed. And that was the beginning of my journey into mindfulness.

Years later, I now teach meditation. And from my experience as a teacher, and from reading hundreds of research papers, I have learned that there are some seriously powerful meditation techniques for sleep. These meditations will quiet your mind, help you to relax before bed, and ultimately allow you to get a good night’s sleep.

The Best Meditation Techniques For Sleep (& Scripts)

Science shows that one of the best ways to get to sleep is by using self-healing meditations.

Meditation helps to quieten the mind and promote inner calm so we can get a restful night’s sleep.

Not only this, but meditation helps improve the quality of sleep too. It even reduces our need for sleep. Neuroimaging studies show that meditation helps sleep issues because it makes us need to sleep less. That means that even if you still cannot get to sleep, you will reduce your symptoms of insomnia by meditating. Some studies show that for people who meditate, sleep requirements drop by about 4 hours per night [1].

So, how do you use meditation to get to sleep?

In my experience, and from scientific research, the following are the best meditation techniques for sleep.

For the complete scripts for these sleep meditations, refer to our main menu.

1: Mindfulness

Arguably the very best meditation technique for sleep is mindfulness, which is the simple act of focusing the mind on the breath and labelling any distractions. This trains the mind to stop reacting to stimuli, which ultimately helps us to switch off and get to sleep.

A clinical trial published by Harvard recently proved this. [3]

In the trial, a group of 49 middle-aged and older adults who had insomnia were divided in two. Half the group were taught to use mindfulness to get to sleep, as well as learning about other meditations. These meditations focused on present-moment mindfulness and the labelling of thoughts and emotions. The other half of the group were given a sleep education class.  The groups met six times, once a week for two hours.

After those six weeks, the group that had learned mindfulness had significantly better sleep than the other group. Dr Herbet Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, said, “Mindfulness meditation…evoked the relaxation response, which is a psychological shift that can help us to get to sleep by undoing the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.

meditation to sleep at night
meditation to sleep at night

 #2: Abdominal breathing  

Another excellent meditation technique for sleep is Abdominal Breathing. This is simply the practice of breathing deep and meditating on the movement of the breath through the body.

To do this, focus your attention on your breath and imagine air entering deep into your lungs and filling your entire body.  Breathe in for five counts. Pause. Then breathe out. Count the breath in cycles of tens, and aim for 100 breaths.

The National Library Of Medicine states that “[abdominal breathing] reduces negative subjective and physiological consequences of stress in healthy adults.”

Deep breathing activates the relaxation response, which helps reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety, two of the leading causes of insomnia.

#3: Kriya Yoga 

According to research that was published in 2009 [4], one of the best meditation techniques for sleep is Kriya Yoga. This is an advanced form of meditation that requires a meditation teacher for proper instruction. Although the study is a little old now, it does suggest that Kriya Yoga meditation helps us sleep.

The study gathered data from 11 healthy subjects aged between 25 and 45 with chronic insomnia. The group was divided in two. Half the group were given two months of Kriya Yoga instruction. The other half were given a health education program. Both groups were given a sleep education program.

Ramadevi Gourineni, MD, director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Evanston, said, “Results of the study show that teaching deep relaxation techniques during the daytime can help improve sleep at night.”

Practising Kriya yoga and other deep meditation techniques helps us to get to sleep by training the mind to unwind. Therefore, some of the best meditation techniques for sleep are ones in which we enter a deep meditative state.

#4: Tibetan Singing Bowls

Scientific research has suggested that another of the best meditations for sleep is meditating to Tibetan Singing Bowls.

Tibetan Singing Bowls are sound healing instruments that have been used for meditation for thousands of years. Research shows that when we listen to singing bowls, we activate theta and alpha brainwaves, which are the same brainwaves activated during the first stage of sleep.

A study [6] published in the journal Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found that meditating on the sound of a singing bowl for one hour helped relieve tension, anger, anxiety, depression, and stress, which are some of the leading causes of insomnia.

Another theory on Tibetan Singing Bowls is that the vibrations the instruments create helps to heal the whole body and stimulate the relaxation response. One study showed that practising singing bow meditations twice a week for five weeks led to improves sleep [6]

Rules For Getting To Sleep With Meditation  

1: Do It At Least One Hour Before Sleep

If you meditate while trying to sleep, you will more than likely prevent yourself from sleeping. The reason is that meditation heightens your awareness and raises your consciousness, which is counterproductive to dozing off and catching those Zzzzzz’s.

Leave at least one hour between meditation and sleep. One hour before bed, meditate so you relax and unwind. Then stop meditating, go and do something else, like reading or something else that is relaxing. Then hit the sack. This will stop your racing thoughts, relax your mind and body, and then let you drift off into sleep.

If you don’t leave one hour between meditation and bed, it might stop you sleeping [7]

2: Stick to relaxing technique

Some meditations are designed to release your emotions. Some meditations are deep. And those are not the best types of meditation before bed. Instead, focus on some relaxing meditation techniques.

You’re spoilt for choice here. You could go for a Zen Walk or do some gentle movement meditations. But the best bet is just to do some gentle breathing meditations.

3: Be Mindful When Lying Down 

A lot of people like to meditate in bed lying down. Hey, I get that. It’s been a long day. Your legs are tired. You want to relax. And besides, those pillows just look too darned comfy. No sweat. Meditate in bed. Just do it the right way. Lie down with good posture and make sure your mind is in a state of restful awareness.

4: Afterwards, do something different   

After meditating, before bed, do something to relax but also distract your mind. You don’t want to stay in the heightened state of awareness you created when you meditated. You want your mind to start to drift off gradually. That’s why it’s best to do something that is relaxing but also distracting. My favourite thing to do between meditation and bed is to read a book.

And that is how to meditate before bed. You might also like to use a mantra for sleep.

Meditating before bed will help you to get to sleep at night. Just remember to leave an hour between meditating and going to bed.

Conclusion 

Scientific research shows that meditation can stop insomnia. And I, as someone who used to have insomnia and as a meditation teacher, have seen firsthand how meditation can cure insomnia in as little as a few weeks.

Above we looked at the best sleep meditation script and techniques. These were based on scientific research. However, it is worth noting that the majority of meditations help with sleep. I simply focused on the methods that are scientifically proven to work. So feel free to try other meditation techniques for sleep too. One good alternative is to use some bedtime mantras. 

One thing you should bear in mind is that there are specific procedures for meditating before bed. So be sure to read that article for further advice.

Share this article and let’s stop insomnia for good.

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SOURCES:

1: Insomnia Symptoms & Causes, Mayo Clinic,  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167

3: Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep. Julie Corliss, Harvard Health https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726

4: Meditation May Be An Effective Treatment For Insomnia, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Kelly Wagner, https://aasm.org/meditation-may-be-an-effective-treatment-for-insomnia/

5: Willoughby B. Britton, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University Awakening is not a metaphor: the effects of Buddhist meditation practices on basic wakefulness,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054695/

6: Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being: An Observational Study Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, Volume: 22 issue: 3,Tamara L. Goldsby, PhD1, 2, Michael E. Goldsby, PhD1, Mary McWalters, BA1, Paul J. Mills, Ph, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA California Institute for Human Science, Encinitas, CA, USA https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2156587216668109

7: Should You Meditate Before You Go To Bed?, Sleep Advisor, https://www.sleepadvisor.org/meditate-before-sleep/


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