If you’re someone who has struggled with sleep issues, you’ve likely tried everything—sleeping pills, melatonin, watching TV before bed—to help you doze off. But, falling asleep quicker and getting good quality sleep can be a challenge, and you don’t always want to rely on taking a medication or supplement every night.
Thankfully, there is another option that’s free and natural—meditation for sleep. Not only can it help you relax and fall asleep quicker, but it can also help you sleep more deeply and soundly.
“Meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response, which can help ‘turn off’ the mind and get a better night’s sleep,” says Psychologist Dr. Sal Reichbach. “The relaxation response is a place of safety where the body and mind can fully relax. With enough practice, you can train your body and mind to let go of stress, anxiety, and worry, and just be at peace in the moment.”
According to research, mindfulness meditation can help fight both insomnia and fatigue.
Meditation is known to fight stress, and when you’re less anxious, you can sleep more easily and soundly. Fun tip—combine your meditation practice with regular workouts on the Aaptiv app for even greater stress relief.
There are a number of ways to incorporate a daily meditation practice into your life. If you’re not sure where to begin, we’ve got options for you. Here are five ways that you can use meditation for sleep.
For beginners, using a guided meditation can be helpful to get you started. By using an app like Aaptiv, which has its own guided meditations, you’ll be given the proper tools to stay on track and complete a successful practice. Although it can be useful to choose a meditation specific to sleep, any meditation that grounds you in the present moment can help.
“Since the body can’t switch to ‘sleep’ mode while it’s in the ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system, meditation helps you train your body to ease off the gas pedal of anxiety,” says Yoga and Meditation Teacher Morgan Balavage.
“It also promotes relaxation because we are breathing with our diaphragm, so the breath[s] are longer and deeper. This causes us to slow down and forces muscle relaxation, especially in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.” To practice a breathwork meditation, lie down on your back, close your eyes, and place a palm on your belly and a palm on your chest. Begin to deepen your inhale and exhale to a count of five to six. Let your breath slow down to help you relax.
Redirecting your attention from your mind to your body can help you drift off to sleep. One study from UCLA found that a mindfulness meditation involving a guided body scan helped improve sleep quality among older adults with sleep disturbances. To do a body scan, start at the bottom of your body, and work your way to the top.
“Just notice where your body is gripping, where it feels impossible to unclench,” says Balavage. “Don’t try to relax it. Just notice it, breathe a few breaths, and then move to the next body part.”
A specific type of guided meditation called Yoga nidra aims to create a state of consciousness somewhere between waking and sleeping to relax the mind and body. Yoga nidra, also known as ‘yogic sleep,’ works by relaxing into the entire body while programming the mind with affirmations and subconscious rewiring,” says Yoga and Meditation Instructor Ava Johanna.
However, you won’t find yourself doing any down dogs with this practice. Instead of poses, it relies on deep breathing. “The practice of yoga nidra or guided meditation at night is great for restless sleepers,” says Johanna.
Meditation for sleep can also involve your body. Moving meditations are slow and simple. They are designed to slow you down and bring you into the present moment.
There are different types of moving meditation, from slow, deep stretches to gentle pacing around your room. “Our conscious mind tends to mimic the pace of our muscles,” says Toombs. “As we slow our pace, it slows the frequency of our thoughts.”
Using meditation for sleep can be an effective solution to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Check out the Aaptiv app to get started with a practice on your own.