Good news: Meditation can help you sleep even if you’re the worst of insomniacs.
Meditation cured my insomnia when everything else failed
I used to be one of the 10% of people who have chronic insomnia (1).
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. Everyday I had a headache, and I suffered numerous other symptoms of insomnia (2):
- mood swings
- lack of focus
- The few times I did sleep I suffer from sleep paralysis–an inability to move or speak when you’re falling asleep or waking up (sleep paralysis is brutal).
- basically, it was hell
Desperate to sleep, I tried everything. I took natural supplements for insomnia and other natural remedies. I tried sound therapy. Hell I even consider slamming my head into the wall–if you suffer from insomnia you probably know the feeling.
Here’s a list of remedies I tried to get to sleep:
- Warm milk (yummy but no dice)
- Herbal tea
- Melatonin supplements
- Passionflower tea
- Light therapy
- Reading before bed
- Eliminated caffeine
- Eliminated alcohol
- Took less naps
- Got an ergonomic pillow.
- Counting sheep
- Magnesium and calcium
This was ten years ago. Today there are even more sleep products available.
New sleep products to consider
As reported on Entrepreneur.com, “From high-tech apps to reinvented beds, entrepreneurs and established companies are working to provide solutions and meet the desire for products and services that support better rest.”
While phones and computers are one of the main causes of sleep deprivation, they can also be a part of the solution. White noise apps like Sleep Pillow Sounds and Relax Melodies create relaxing sounds that help the mind to drift off (though my personal preference is to listen to a Tibetan Singing Bowl). Other apps track your sleeping habits, like Sleep Cycle alarm clock and Sleepbot.
Wearable technology like the Fitbit can track your sleep time and vital signs and can help you to create a schedule which will be more conducive to sleep.
Of course one of the most important of sleep products is the beds themselves. New bed technology is helping to improve night-time comfort, while temperature controllers help to create the right conditions for a healthy night’s sleep.
And finally there are the spas and clinics. Spas like YeloSpa and nap pods like Metronaps give you the opportunity to relax away from home.
All of these are worth considering for anyone who has chronic insomnia.
The one thing I personally would never try? Sleep sleep medication.
The side-effects of sleep medication are brutal (3):
- Change of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Stomach ache
- Weird dreams and nightmares
- Muscular weakness
Somehow, the symptoms of sleeping pills are worse than just not sleeping! So I tried everything except sleeping pills. But for me, nothing worked.
One day a teacher said to me, “Have you tried meditating?” Best advice I ever received.
Ten years later not only have I cured my insomnia, I am now a meditation teacher.
Meditation stops insomnia. Period. (And meditation stops sleep paralysis too in my experience, though there is no scientific research to back this up).
So before you slam your head into the wall to knock yourself out, let me show you how you can get to sleep with meditation.
Science proves meditation cures insomnia
For me meditation was (and is) a miracle. And research out of Harvard University backs it up.
A clinical trial (4) took 49 insomniacs. Half the group were taught mindfulness. The other half completed a sleep education course. After six sessions, the group which had practiced mindfulness meditation had significantly reduce levels of insomnia compared to the other group.
Yoga helps too.
The Associated Professional Sleep Societies (5) looked at 11 research papers on insomnia and concluded that Kriya Yoga (a type of meditation) led to significantly improved quality of sleep (based on subjective analysis).
And in perhaps the most surprising scientific test, researchers found that people who meditate require less sleep than others. Neuroimaging studies show that meditation leads to heightened states of awareness and less need for sleep. That means that even if you still cannot get to sleep, your insomnia symptoms will be reduced if you meditate.
This, however, needs clarification. Because there are conflicting studies. Some studies show that people who meditate may need up to 4 hours less sleep every night (6). Other studies suggest you need eight hours of sleep no matter what.
Either way, sleep deprivation must be taken seriously.
The real dangers of sleep deprivation
Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to your health, your work, your happiness… everything.
For healthy bodily function we need 8 hours of sleep every night And while some research (above) shows that meditators need less sleep than other people, other research varies.
Some studies show that getting any less than 8 hours sleep per night will have negative effects on our health and wellbeing. (6).
Shockingly, the journal Sleep showed that people who get 6 hours of sleep every night function as badly as people who don’t sleep for two days (7).
Listen: there are major risks of sleep deprivation:
Sleep deprivation can cause:
High blood pressure
And of course there are health benefits of getting the right amount of sleep.
When you sleep your body repairs cells, revives your adrenal glands, and harmonises you ready for the next day. That’s why, if you get a good night’s sleep you should wake up feeling wonderful and happy the next morning, ready to get the day off to a positive start.
So here’s what we know:
- Meditators may need less sleep
- Meditation helps you get to sleep
- Meditation also improves the quality of sleep
So, basically, meditation is a win / win.
How Meditation Stops Insomnia
Meditation treats insomnia because it stops virtually all the causes of insomnia.
The vast majority of insomnia cases are caused by noise. That could be mental noise from thinking too much or it could be the noise of the people above you playing Call of Duty at ten thousand decibels. Either way, insomnia is generally caused by mental or environmental noise (8).
Often these two things go hand-in-hand.
When I was in university I fought the environmental noise of the people above me playing video games until 5 o’clock in the morning. And I fought mental noise because I was angry about it. There was next to nothing I could do about the environmental noise (ear plugs are not an option for me). But I could cut out the mental noise by using meditation to stop anger.
Noise is the number one cause of insomnia. As the following list proves.
The causes of insomnia:
- Too much thinking
- Noisy environment
- Dwelling on the past
- Worrying about the future
- Generalised stress and anxiety
- (this is excluding more serious conditions like asthma, arthritis, chronic pain, and endocrine problems).
Meditation Treats Insomnia By Cutting Out The Noise
Have you ever tried meditating? If you have then you will know that meditation cuts out both mental and environmental noise and lets you find inner peace, which in itself is conducive to sleep.
Incidentally, if you have never tried meditating, you should try our beginners guide to meditation. Try it now so you can feel the difference meditation makes. Then come back here and continue reading so we can cure your insomnia.
Okay, so now you have tried meditation. And you can feel the different that meditation makes. It silences your mind.
So already it is very easy to see how meditating will help with insomnia. Using meditation for insomnia helps because it shuts out the noise.
But actually it goes a lot deeper than that. Because meditation also helps with a lot of the other causes of insomnia.
If You Have Insomnia Cause By Depression
Insomnia is often caused by depression.
People with depression often suffer from ruminating thoughts while they are in bed. These depressive thoughts prevent the mind from relaxing, which makes sleep next to impossible. And at the same time, sleep deprivation increases negative thinking. This is why approximately 20% of people with insomnia also have depression (8).
Meditation trains the mind to be more aware of thoughts and feelings, and this reduces the effect of those thoughts and feelings. My guide to emotional control helps.
If You Have Insomnia Caused By Anxiety
Anxiety is very closely linked to depression. Spiritually speaking, anxiety and depression are caused by a block of prana in the body. This can make it feel as though you are stuck or trapped. This could be caused by an emotional block, chemical block, or a blocked thought or mental pattern.
Blocked prana can lead to both anxiety and depression (and numerous other problems). But meditation can free the low of prana to restore health.
One way to restore the flow of prana is to use chakra balancing meditation.. This helps to restore natural prana flow, which cures anxiety.
Insomnia From Other Causes
Insomnia can be caused by noise but it can also be caused by numerous other conditions. That’s why one of the bet strategies for dealing with insomnia is to focus on achieving good overall health.
Meditation creates overall wellbeing, leading to good sleeping habits.
There are over 100 health benefits of meditation. Therefore, if insomnia is being caused by a health condition there is a very good chance meditation will solve the problem, or at least improve the condition.
For instance, meditation can be used to cure skin problems. Because meditation increases the circulation in your body it will increase the flow of oxygen and nutrition into areas that have skin problems. So if insomnia is being caused by skin problems, meditation will help.
Another common cause of insomnia is breathing problems. Asthma, for instance. Meditation helps improve the quality of breathing, relieving the symptoms of respiratory problems and helping us get to sleep at night.
Scientists are very quickly learning that meditation heals many health problems. So if you have a health problem that is causing insomnia, you should definitely consider using meditation.
Using mindfulness for sleep
Do you lie in bed at night with thoughts racing through your mind? Do you struggle to find that calmness and relaxation necessary for you to drift off? If you’re busy or dealing with stress, your mind starts to overflow with thoughts. Then when you lie down your mind is on autopilot talking to itself and refusing to fall silent.
At times those thoughts that rush through your head are somewhat helpful. You remember friends you want to catch up with and things you want to do. But no thought is truly helpful when it’s 2am and you’ve got work the next day.
If thoughts are keep you up and you’re struggling to clear your mind and get to sleep, use these 5 simple ways to clear your mind before bed.
1. Take note of your thoughts
One of the main reasons why the thoughts continue to flow through your mind is because you want to remember them. The easiest way to solve this problem is to write the thoughts down. Grab a piece of paper and write them down or you an app like Evernote.
Do you find that the moment you leap into bed your mind is suddenly overrun with thoughts? If so a simple visualisation can help to clear your mind. Imagine that you are standing at the edge of a beautiful ocean with the sea breeze in your ear. Now, when thoughts come to your mind, imagine tossing them out of your mind and into the ocean, where they drift away.
3. Create the right nighttime environment for sleep
Our environment has a profound effect on our quality of sleep. Lights in the room, noises nearby, and even the smell of a room can effect our ability to get to sleep. By making sure the room is quiet, dark, and clean we help our minds to drift off at night
4. Make a deal with your thoughts
Those ideas and thoughts are going to keep swimming around your mind until you do something with them. One of the best things to do is to make a deal. Promise yourself that you will pick up the thoughts another time. Tell yourself, “I’m going to stop thinking now, but I’ll get back to it in the morning.” This trick works because it reassures your mind that the thoughts will be taken care of
5. Have an “intense thinking workout” before bed
When you exercise, your body gets tired and you’re less restless at the end of it. Same deal with your mind. If you spend an hour doing an “intense thinking workout” before bed, your mind will be tired and no longer restless. An Intense Thinking Workout (in which you intentionally force yourself to think about all the things that are in your mind) will help your mind to shut off.
When you get in bed, lie down mindfully
There is a way to lie down in bed properly. And there’s a way to lie down improperly.
Lying down in bed the wrong way: You feel like relaxing so you take yourself off to your room, away from the kids, away from the dog / cat, away from everything. You lie down. But in your mind you’re still thinking about the kids, the mortgage, work… it’s like you carried all those things into the bedroom with you. They’re stuck on your mind the same way a bunch of cockleburs get stuck on your clothing. And you don’t know how to stop thinking. (If that’s you, read this guide to stop thinking, it’ll do you wonders).
Lying down in bed the right (mindful) way: The mindful way of lying down in bed is like this. You feel like relaxing so you take yourself off to your room, away from the kids, away from the dog / cat, away from work, away from everything. You lie down. And in your mind you are doing absolutely nothing except lying down.The kids, the housework, your job… they’re gone. It’s just you and your bed, your lovely, lovely bed. You’re lying down in bed in body. And you’re lying down in bed in mind too. That’s the difference. Your mind is lying down too.
When you need to lie down, it’s not just your body that needs to lie down. Sure, after the vacuuming, the cooking, your work, looking after the kids and everything else, you are physically tired. But you’re mentally tired too.
That’s why you need to relax both your body and your mind. That’s why when your body does nothing but lie down on the bed, your mind should do nothing but lie down on the bed too.
The Health Benefits Of Lying Down Mindfully
- Lying down mindfully (and with good posture) will:
- Improve circulation
- Reuce chance of injury (for instance, waking up with a sore back in the morning)
- Help when you have asthma or another breathing problem
- Create a deeper state of relaxation (which is good for mental health)
- Make you feel great when you wake up in the morning.
If you want to lie down in the healthiest way, lie down in both body and mind
How To Lie Down Mindfully
- Clear out the distractions. Whatever you can do to get rid of the distractions, do it. Send that last email. Do the dishes. You know the drill. Get it done. It will be worth it.
- Jump in bed, close the bedroom door, create a silent atmosphere. And if you can’t have silence because of the kids or the TV in the background, just put some relaxing music on. I’ve already put together some relaxing meditation music for you to help you out.
- Take a few moments to stretch and relax. I like to do some basic yoga or tai-chi before bed to relax my body. You probably already know this but a relaxed body does help to create a relaxed mind. But if you’re pushed for time just make sure to get nice and comfy in the bed.
- Take five or ten minutes just to focus on your breathing. Just relax. Breathe. You might find it helpful to practice stillness breathing meditation for this. It’s a really easy breathing meditation that will help you unwind.
- Now, once your mind feels calm and still, bring your focus to your body. Tune in to your body and focus your mind on your entire physical being. Body scan meditation is good for this. Essentially, you want to feel as though your mind and body are one. It’s as though your mind is balancing on your body, while your body is completely relaxed on the bed.
- Finally, imagine stepping back in your mind. Your focusing on you, but you take a little step back. You want your mind to be focusing on your entire body as it lies down on the bed.
5 Meditations for sleep
Now that you are lying in be mindfully, it is time to meditate.
There are 31 major types of meditation. And they all help with insomnia and improve sleep quality.
As a meditation teacher, the following 5 meditations are my top picks for when you want to get to sleep at night.
Meditation for sleep #1: Mindfulness
One of the main causes of insomnia is the inability to let go of thoughts in order to let your mind switch off. And one of the main benefits of meditation is that it helps you to let go of those thoughts.
All those time when you’re lying in bed with your mind running a mile of minute. You know, those times you want to slam your head into the wall. The times when it feels like just going to sleep would be a miracle. At those times, mindfulness will be your new best friend. You can check out our completely free guide to mindfulness meditation here.
To give a brief introduction. To use mindfulness for sleep, first get into bed, give yourself a few minutes to begin to relax, then focus on your breath. While focusing on your breath, allow thoughts and feelings to be released.
Mindfulness is the very best type of meditation for sleep.
Meditation for sleep #2: Abdominal breathing for relaxation
You know what’s better than Breathe Right Strips? Meditating on the breath.
Shallow breathing promotes stress, making it hard to sleep. Deep breathing promotes inner calm and relaxation, helping us to get to sleep at night.
One of the best ways to get to sleep is to make sure you are breathing correctly at all times.
When you have ten minutes, focus your attention on your breath and imagine air entering deep into your lungs and filling your entire body. This will make you breathe better, which will promote better general health and help to cure insomnia.
Meditation for sleep #3: Yoga
Take a look at my guide to 13 different styles of yoga. it is the perfect way to start to learn about yoga.
Yoga is one of the best ways of relaxing both body and mind.
You don’t need to be a yogi, either. In fact, you don’t really need to know much about yoga at all.
Two hours before bed, spend thirty minutes doing some basic yoga asanas (poses) while focusing on your breath (doing “pranayama”). This will connect mind and body and calm both for complete relaxation that is perfect just before bed.
If you would like to learn more about using yoga for sleep, I highly recommend the work of Dr. Rubin Naiman. Dr. Naiman is a sleep specialist and a true luminary. His work on yoga for sleep is a true eye opener and offers genuine relief for insomniacs.
I recommend The Yoga of Sleep: Sacred and Scientific Practices to Heal Sleeplessness. It is a remarkable work that transforms the way we sleep. It offers genuine relief for insomniacs.
Meditation for sleep #4: Guided Meditation for Sleep
Listening to music or listening to a guide meditation will help sleep.
A guided meditation is designed to take you on a relaxing, imaginary journey. For instance, walking by the sea or floating on a cloud.
Guided meditations can be done by either using a recording or by leading yourself through an imaginary scene.
Imagine that you are somewhere safe and relaxing. And visualize all the details of that relaxing scene. See the sights. Hear the sounds. Smell the aromas. Let your mind bask in this wonderful relaxing scene.
If you would like to use a recorded guided meditation, I highly recommend Jason Stephenson’s Guided Sleep Meditation. Jason has a very relaxing voice and is a truly talented guide.
Alternatively, you may enjoy our free guided meditation for relaxation.
Meditation For Sleep #5: Music
Relaxing music can help you get to sleep. Not only can you put some music on when your girlfriend (or boyfriend) is lying next to you snoring, but you can also use music to get into that Zen-sational chill-out zone that you want to be in before you hit the sack.
My collection of beautiful meditation music (free) is a great place to start.
6: A great alternative is to use mantras before bed.
Or try finding your life’s purpose
I was surprised this week when a scientific study was published that shows that finding our life’s purpose will helps us to sleep.
Researchers at the Northwestern University in Chicago surveyed people on their sense of purpose and their sleeping habits and found a correlation. Specifically, people who felt they had a strong purpose in life were significantly less likely to suffer from insomnia.
Researchers Jason Ong suggests that if we want to stop insomnia, we should focus on finding a purpose in life.
More than 800 people between the ages of 60 and 100 took part in the study and were asked to rate the accuracy of statements like, “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.”
The study suggests that people with a good sense of purpose in life are less likely to suffer from insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and apnea.
But how exactly do you find a purpose in life so you can get to sleep?
My personal belief is that our life purpose is always within us. Only, we cannot hear it, or see it, because there is too much noise, too many distractions in the mind.
When we silence the mind and cut out distraction, we are able to tune into the deeper parts of the mind, which is precisely where we find our life’s purpose.
And the science says that finding our life’s purpose will help us sleep.
60 million people in America alone suffer from insomnia. So it is very likely that someone you know (or you yourself) has insomnia. Meditation will help.
Meditation is a safe, healthy, positive way to cure insomnia. And science proves it works.
Share this article and let’s stop insomnia for good.
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