Best Meditation Techniques For Sleep To Stop Insomnia

meditation for sleep

Before I started using meditation techniques for sleep I would lie awake at night with restless thoughts, unable to doze off.

I’d tried everything from counting sheep to breathwork, but none of it worked until I started meditating.

As I continued my daily practice of meditation, my insomnia gradually improved, and I was finally able to doze off.  

Today I’m a meditation teacher, and many of my students ask me to help them catch those Zzz’s at night So in this guide I will do just that. 

The Best Meditation Techniques For Sleep 

 1:  Script 

  1. Lie down with good posture. You should feel grounded in your body. You can choose to meditate lying down on your back or on your side. Just make sure you have good posture. 
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Focus your mind on your breath moving around the space between your lips and nose. 
  4. While you continue to focus on that space, gently label anything that enters your mind. For instance, if you become aware of a thought, say to yourself, “This is just a thought”. Then return to focusing on your breathing. 
  5. as you continue to meditate on your breath, you will become aware of a feeling of relaxed emptiness. You will know what I mean once you start to feel this. If you’re not there yet, continue to meditate on your breath. Otherwise, go to the next step.
  6. Meditate on the feeling of emptiness. Place your mind in that space, and observe what it feels like to be completely relaxed. 
  7. Again, if your mind becomes distracted, simply label the source of the distraction and continue focusing on the point of emptiness. 
  8. Continue in this fashion and before long you will be asleep. It usually takes me about 50 breaths to fall asleep meditating in this way.

 2: Guided  

The easiest option is to use a guided meditation for sleep. However, research [Harvarf Medical Schoo, 2019] shows that guided meditations are not as effective as traditional meditation.  

 

3: Mindfulness  

Arguably the very best meditation technique for sleep is mindfulness, which is the simple act of focusing the mind on the breath and labeling 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 into two. Half the group was taught to use mindfulness to get to sleep, as well as learn about other meditations. These meditations focused on present-moment mindfulness and the labeling of thoughts and emotions.

The other half of the group was given a sleep education class.  The groups met six times, once a week for two hours.

After six weeks, the group that had learned mindfulness had significantly better sleep than the other group. 

 

 

4: Abdominal breathing  

Another excellent meditation for sleep is Abdominal Breathing. This is 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 “[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.

 

5: Kriya Yoga 

According to research published in 2009 [4], one of the best sleep meditation techniques 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 helps us sleep.

The study gathered data from eleven 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.” 

6: Tibetan Singing Bowls 

Scientific research suggests that another good meditation for sleep is listening 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. 

 7: Tibetan Dream Yoga

This is an ancient meditation that yogis use as part of their path to enlightenment. It is a meditation done while lucid dreaming. I share it here for fun and education. 

  1.  Tell yourself that you are going to have a lucid dream and that you will be aware in your dreams. Then go to sleep using exercise 1 from above. This will increase the chance of a lucid dream.
  2. While you have a lucid dream, challenge your fears. For instance, imagine a fire and walk inside it. This will train your mind to realise that you cannot be hurt by anything in your dreams. This is the second step of the traditional Tibetan Dream Yoga practice. Continue to face your fears until you realise that you cannot be hurt because you are in a dream.
  3. While having your lucid dream, begin to consider how waking life and sleeping life are the same. They are both perceptions that are created by your mind.
  4. While lucid dreaming, realise that your perception is just Maya, a delusion. It is not a genuine reality, just an illusion that you have created for yourself.
  5. Begin to take control of your dreams. This is the fifth stage of Tibetan Dream Yoga. Move objects around. Change things. Take control.
  6. When you wake up in the morning, consider how your waking reality is the same as sleeping. Your perception of reality is an illusion you create. Challenge your perception of reality.
  7. And that is how you do Tibetan Dream Yoga

7: Mantras 

English Mantras

  • “I am calm and still.”
  • “The world is sleeping, and all is well.”
  • “I welcome rest into my being.”
  • “Breathing deeply and calmly, becoming more and more relaxed with each breath.”
  • “I feel my mind and body drifting off.”
  • “My mind and body are letting go.”

Spiritual Mantras

  • Sa Ta Na Ma
  • Har Har Mukunday
  • Ang Sang Waheguru

Tips On Using Meditation For Sleep  

Here are the most important meditation tips for sleep.

 

1: Meditate One Hour Before Bed

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 to relax and unwind. Then stop meditating, and 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 let you drift off into sleep.

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

 

2: Stick to relaxing techniques

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

You’re spoilt for choice here. You could go for a Zen Walk or do some gentle movement exercises. 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 and before bed, do something to relax and 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.  

 

Benefits  

When we use meditation to get to sleep, we relax the mind and quieten our thoughts. The result is a state of relaxation that naturally leads to sleep.  

Have you noticed how your is often busiest at night? Do you stay up late at night because of thoughts and feelings in the mind? That loud and busy mind can prevent you from dozing off, which is why you need to quieten your mind to get to sleep.

By using meditation for sleep you quieten your mind so you can doze off.

Scientifically, meditation helps to lower heart rate, reduce breathing rate, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to relax.

Not only this, but meditation improves the quality of sleep too. It even reduces our need for sleep according to neuroimaging studies. Some studies show that for people who meditate, sleep requirements drop by about 4 hours per night [1].

Sleep is imperative for health. And many people are suffering from the effects of inadequate sleep. In fact, research shows that more than forty per cent of people in the U.S get less than seven hours of sleep per night [Gallup poll]. Thirty per cent of people say that they find it difficult to get to sleep. And six per cent have nightly insomnia. No wonder the sleep industry has exploded and is now worth an estimated $432 billion globally.    

Some people deliberately suffer sleep deprivation because of the bizarre notion that it is cool to be too busy to sleep. But even those who try to get to sleep often fail. 

Essentially our minds are always running, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to know how to make the mind switch off at night so you can go to sleep. Thank goodness for meditation. 

 

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 techniques too.  

Of course, meditation is not the only way to doze off.

You should also practice developing good habits like working out (yoga is great), reducing stress levels, walking in peaceful areas, eating a healthy diet, and developing a routine (get out of bed at the same time each day because this supports circadian rhythms).

Your sleep environment matters too. It’s easier to fall asleep in a clean bedroom that is dark and quiet (darkness helps with melatonin release, which is beneficial for sleep). 

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

Do you want to sleep better? Would you like to learn meditation? Book an online meditation lesson with me today.

 

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/meditatem-before-sleep/

By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. "My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation" - Paul Harrison

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