In this guide we will be looking at how to lie down to meditate before bed at night.
Should you meditate before bed? As a meditation teacher a lot of people ask me that question. And It’s a good one.
Meditation is in many ways the total opposite of going to sleep. When you meditate you actually become more conscious than you are at most other times. After all, one of the main reasons people meditate is specifically to heighten their consciousness. There are even meditation techniques to make you conscious while you sleep, like when you have a lucid dream.
Sleep, on the other hand, is when you drift out of consciousness. In this way, meditation and sleep are opposite.
They do, however, share one important thing in common: meditation helps you to relax. So, when you meditate before bed you are relaxed and ready to go to sleep.
What gives? Does meditation help or hurt sleep?
In my experience, meditation definitely will help you to get a good night’s sleep. I’ve even written a guide to help you use meditation techniques for sleep.
I’ve personally been using meditation before bed for many, many years. It started when I had insomnia in university. I would lie in bed all night not able to sleep at all, and then wake up in the morning looking like some hideous zombie right out a George. A Romero movie (the director who made the Living Dead series of flicks).
When I started meditating before bed, at first, it didn’t work. Meditating raised my consciousness and actually made me more awake than I normally was. It actually made me acutely aware of my insomnia. I would be very aware of things like the heaviness of my eyelids and the aches in my body. I actually felt worse when meditated before bed.
Then I changed one thing: I started meditating one hour before bed. This totally changed my world. When I meditated an hour before bed, the meditation slowed my mind down and helped me to stop thinking, which of course help with sleep. But it didn’t prevent me from drifting off once I got into bed.
This one simple little change cured my insomnia.
Now I’m a meditation teacher I’ve learned all sorts of mistakes that I used to make when I meditated. So let me enlighten you about a few ground rules for meditating before bed.
Rules For Meditating Before Bed Time
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 levels and raises your consciousness. This is counterproductive to dozing off and catching those Zzzzzz’s.
Leave at least one hour between meditation and sleep. This is crucial. One hour before bed, meditate so you relax and unwind. Then completely stop meditating, go and do something else, like reading or something else that is relaxing. Then hit the bed. 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 [source].
2: Stick to relaxing meditations before bed
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.
Your spoilt for choice here. You could go for a Zen Walk or do some gentle movement meditations. But the best bet is to just 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 beside, those pillow just look too darned comfy. No sweat. Meditate in bed. Just do it the right way.
There is a right way and a wrong way to meditate in bed. My guide to meditating while lying down will help you get it right.
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 favorite 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 definitely help you to get to sleep at night. Just remember to leave an hour between meditating and going to bed.
How To Meditate Lying Down
A lot of readers have been asking me: Is it okay to do meditation lying down?
This really is an interesting question. And it’s a question that will split opinions.
Obviously if you are meditating to get to sleep at night, it’s a no-brainer: meditate while lying down.
But what about at other times? Is it okay to just abandon the proper seated method and practice meditation lying down instead?
Why Practice Meditation Lying Down?
Let me ask you a question: why do you want to meditate lying down?
Sure, meditating in bed is one of the best ways to meditate at home.
Because it’s easier, right? That’s the reason most people want to meditate lying down. Simply put: they want to relax while they meditate.
Now here is where this becomes a problem:
The reason most people want to meditate lying down is because it requires less effort. But meditation is supposed to require some effort. If your entire plan is to just not bother putting in any effort, you really are not going to get a lot out of your practice.
You wouldn’t go to the gym and not really bother because you wouldn’t lose weight.
And if your attitude going into meditation is to not really bother the you won’t get much out of it either.
So, the first thing to ask yourself is: If you want to practice meditation lying down is it just because it takes less effort? If so, consider what you might get out of meditation if you tried a little harder.
Makes it harder to focus
There is a reason why some meditation techniques specifically ask you to sit up.
For instance, in Zen meditation you must sit properly, in lotus position. This isn’t about stretching your thighs. It’s about the fact that when your body is properly balanced you will focus better .
Lying down also induces a level of stress. It is a known fact that the heartrate increases when we lie down. And for some people, that increased heartrate could prevent them from relaxing and focusing.
- Sit down
- Close your eyes
- Take ten breaths while focusing on your breath
- Now lie down.
- Try to focus your mind as much while lying down as you did when sitting down.
Were you able to focus equally? For some people the answer will be no. And that alone should be enough to make you stop meditating lying down.
After yoga (Savasana)
Funny thing is, even though lying down is often not ideal, there are some specific meditation techniques to do lying down.
For instance, it is traditional to end yoga practice with a period of resting meditation (usually an Emptiness Meditation). This is usually done while lying down in Corpse Pose (Savasana).
However, this is a lot different to simply lying down to meditate. When we do this yogic practice we’ve already warmed up the body (which also warms up the mind) and we are focused and energized from the exercise. That’s totally different to simply lying down.
If you have warmed up your body (and thereby your mind) and you are able to lie down in Savasana (not an easy pose to master) then yes, by all means meditate lying down.
But I suspect this is not the case for most people.
There is also another reason why you might want to meditate lying down:
What if you need to lie down while meditating because you are too ill, or injured, to sit-up for an extended period of meditation.
In this case, you could always try using a meditation seat.
However, if sitting down is just not an option, then yes by all means lie down.
My mother-in-law is currently unable to sit up because of a serious health condition. To meditate she literally has no choice but to meditate lying down.
Still, it is not ideal and it is better to sit, if you are able.
But, meditating while lying down is still better than just lying down
If you are meditating while lying down on top of regular meditation, then this is really just a bonus, in which case you should go for it.
Truth is, if you’re lying down anyway, you might as well lie down mindfully.
The Health Benefits Of Meditating Lying Down
Lying down mindfully (and with good posture) will:
- Improve circulation
- Reduce 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.
How To Meditate Lying Down
Much like there are right ways to sit meditating, there is a right way to lie down too.
Here’s how to meditate lying down.
- 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.
- 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
- 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. You’re 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.
Truth is: 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 cockle-burs 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.
Meditating lying down is not ideal. But I get it. You’ve had a long day. You want to meditate, but you also want to relax. Go ahead and meditate lying down.
It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than not meditating, and you will still benefit from it. And as well as doing this before bed you can also lie down for your morning meditations to wake up.