Before I started using meditation 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.

By using meditation, insomnia gradually reduces and I found that I was naturally able to get a good night’s rest.

Let me share the sleep meditation techniques that I found most helpful for reducing insomnia. 

insomnia counting sheep
insomnia counting sheep

What Is Meditation For Sleep?

Meditation for sleep helps us to relax the mind and quieten our thoughts so we can get to sleep at night. 

Have you noticed how often your mind seems 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 at night. And this is where meditation for sleep helps. 

By using meditation for sleep you quieten your mind so you can doze off. Scientifically, meditation meditation helps to lower heart rate, reduce breathing rate, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps   us to relax so that we can fall asleep at night. There are numerous options. One of the most popular options is using a guided meditation for sleep, such as the following video. 

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 for 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: Guided Meditation For Sleep

GUIDED SLEEP MEDITATION WITH DEEPAK CHOPRA

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However, guided meditation for sleep is just one of the many options. And in my experience as a meditation teacher there are better meditation techniques for sleep. So let’s take a look at those. 

2: Mindfulness for sleep

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

 3: 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.

4: 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.

5: Tibetan Singing Bowl Meditation For Sleep

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 Using Meditation For Sleep  

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.

 

More Tips For Sleep 

There is a huge health importance of sleep. And many people are suffering from the effects of inadequate sleep. In fact, research shows that more than forty percent of people in the U.S get less than seven hours of sleep per night [Gallup poll], when we need up to nine. Thirty percent of people say that they find it difficult to get to sleep. And six percent 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. When you get into bed at night, wrap the blanket around you and set your head down on the pillow you find that for whatever reason you mind wont switch off. A lot of it is because of the way we live our lives, our always-on condition with our phones and computers. Many of my friends say they even put their phone on their pillow when they go to bed at night! There’s also the effect of to much sugar, caffeine, stress, illness, and, well, everything else.

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

This is why you should start using meditation for sleep. However, let me clear one thing up. A lot of people think that using meditation for sleep means going to bed and meditating. This is not the case. Using meditation for sleep means doing exercises throughout the day that lead us to a quieter mind at night so we can get to sleep. You can do this with traditional techniques or with guided meditation for sleep. Other options include body scan, visualizations, counting your breath, meditating on silence, doing a meditative exercises like tai chi or qigong to relax the body, and the Buddhist meditation Anapanasati, which is excellent for relaxation. It’s also good to use a very simple meditation to return to sleep if you wake up at night with thoughts.  

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). And it is essential to start your bedtime routine before you actually get in bed. You should start relaxing a couple hours before 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 lying down in 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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Written by Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.



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