Sleep Meditation: A Guide to Getting Better Sleep Naturally
When it comes to getting much-needed rest at night, 70% of Americans reported insufficient sleep levels at least one night a month, and over 10% struggle every single night. The problem extends across racial boundaries and socioeconomic lines, meaning many people are in need of better sleep solutions.
One great way to improve is by creating a sleep meditation ritual. Consider this your guide to getting better sleep naturally.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Before we dive into how to develop a sleep meditation ritual, it’s good to understand the reasons why it’s important. Your sleep habits impact all aspects of your life. Think about how you feel after a bad night of sleep. You might be irritable, less focused, and drowsy all day.
Getting more sleep can boost your mood, help improve mental health conditions, and even make your skin clearer. With better sleep, you’re likely to perform better at school or work, feel more energized to engage in hobbies and exercise, and make the most of your daily life.
While there are supplements and medications you can take to help with sleep, these are not always the most sustainable or healthy options. Natural options like sleep meditation can be a simple, low-cost, and long-lasting way to establish better sleep habits.
The best night’s sleep begins outside the bedroom. Have you gotten in your workout? While you shouldn’t pump it up right before bed, you should take a lesson from toddler parents, who know their kiddos fight naptime less when they’re tuckered. Schedule a sweat session earlier in the day, playing with the time to get it right. Some folks swear by morning workouts so their daily duties don’t interfere later.
Likewise, eating too close to bedtime can set you up for unrest, as can consuming inflammatory foods like white flour and alcohol. Conversely, a healthy meal consisting of seafood and fresh veggies helps lower inflammation thanks to nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. Time it so you eat two to three hours before saying goodnight.
Your bedroom environment is huge for setting the mood for uninterrupted sleep. If you struggle to fall under, your first task is removing electronic devices, even TVs. The blue light these screens emit trick your brain into thinking it’s daylight and suppresses melatonin production, an essential hormone to help you rest.
If you have a one-room studio, use special stickers to block these devices’ blinking or solid lights. Regardless of your room size, make your bed inviting. Cover it in sumptuous pillows – they make handy padding when aches and pains keep you awake. Pile on the blankets and turn down the thermostat. Most folks do their best sleeping in temperatures around 65 degrees.
And hey, a little aromatherapy couldn’t hurt. Many holistic practitioners swear by it, claiming the aroma activates areas of your brain associated with various moods. A spritz of lavender on your pillow smells heavenly and might help you fall asleep.
Think about your first day in a new home or job. You feel all out of sorts, even if you’re prepared. Sleeping is no different because people are creatures of habit. Establishing a nighttime ritual serves as a visual, auditory, and tactile cue to your nervous system that it’s time to wind down.
What you do depends on you. Some people take comfort in brushing their teeth and applying various face creams, sliding on their slippers as a finishing touch.
Others get more elaborate. If you struggle to sleep, a little bedtime yoga with coordinated deep breathing can ease you into dreamland by activating your parasympathetic nervous system – your rest and digest half. Know your styles. Stay away from Ashtanga, vinyasa, or power classes, opting instead for restorative or yin workouts. You can find programs specially designed for winding you into slumber on YouTube.
You could also write in a journal, meditate, or relax with a quiet read. If you do the latter, choose your reading material carefully. Stay away from heavy stories about war or similarly depressing topics, or page-turning novels that have you hiding under the covers with a flashlight instead of sleeping.
Your final step is to minimize disturbances. If you’re a light sleeper in a noisy household or dorm room, this step is more challenging than it seems.
A pair of noise-canceling headphones offer the ultimate solution for sound control. However, not everyone can tolerate back sleeping. Side and belly sleepers might do better with a white noise machine that drowns out the clatter and occasional soaring television soundtrack from the other room.
If you share sleeping space with others, such as in a dorm situation, consider a bed tent. These devices offer privacy and enclose you in darkness when your roommate keeps her lamp on during an all-night study jam.
At a minimum, talk about your sleep needs with the folks sharing your home. Does a shut door indicate “do not disturb” if you live with roommates? Can you agree upon designated quiet hours that work with all your schedules?
There is no one way to meditate. If you’re just starting out, it might take time to find a style that works for you.
A simple meditation might look like sitting or lying in your bed with dimmed lights and little to no noise. Lighting a candle or spraying an aromatherapy scent in the room can help you tune into your senses. Then, try any breathing exercises that resonate with you. Deep breathing will help clear your mind and calm any nerves or energy you’re feeling before bedtime.
Don’t feel bad if thoughts do pop into your head in this process. Simply acknowledge them, identifying the emotions you’re feeling instead of trying to suppress them. You could keep a journal open to write down any thoughts that arise while meditating to help clear them from your mind. Try to focus on positive thoughts and affirmations, as negative thoughts and anxieties will only keep you awake.
Remember, meditation takes practice. You don’t need to feel ashamed if you get distracted. If you practice even just five minutes every night, you’ll get better over time.
You aren’t alone if you struggle to get your Zzzs. Millions of Americans toss and turn every night. However, poor slumber quality can affect your concentration and overall health. Follow this guide to get better sleep naturally.
For advanced practitioners, there is something called lucid dreaming. This is when you meditate yourself asleep or when you enter your sleep in one of the many short phases that we are awake at night. In this way, we can continue our meditation while asleep, and interact with our dreams. I’m sure that people who are not advanced meditators will be skeptical reading this claim but in the eighties psychophysiologist, Dr. Prof. Stephen La Berger from Stanford University proved this phenomenon to be very real.
However, keep in mind that falling asleep while you’re performing your laying down meditation is not the same as lucid dreaming. So try to master your laying down meditation without falling asleep before attempting lucid dreaming.