Whether you suffer from insomnia, sleep deprivation, difficulty falling asleep at night, or regular restless nights in bed, guided meditation for sleep can help calm and unwind the mind (and body) before bed and create the right conditions for a restful nights sleep.
What is meditation for sleep?
With the help of an instructor, guided meditation for sleep will help you relax your body and mind before bed. This is done by guiding you through visualizations and breathing exercises that gently bring your attention to things that ground you to the present.
The meditation will usually start you off, laying in bed on your back, preparing your body and setting the conditions for sleep. From there, you’ll close your eyes and go through a few different exercises in your mind to begin to calm your mind and distance yourself from thoughts and worries that can tend to keep you up at night.
There are two kinds of meditation practices that can help with sleep.
The first is a regular mindfulness practice that can be done at any time of the day. With a regular mindfulness practice, you can begin to change your relationship with the thoughts, worries, and anxiety that is keeping you up at night and preventing you from having a good night’s sleep. By practicing even as little as 10 minutes a day, you can begin creating better conditions for sleep every night.
The second is a meditation for sleep that is done when you try to go to sleep at night. This is the meditation we described earlier, is the one we recommend starting with, and the one we will detail here.
The best approach is to use a combination of both. A regular mindfulness practice that gives you a healthier relationship with your thoughts, and a nightly meditation for sleep practice that can relax you.
Guided meditations for sleep
These guided sessions are designed for sleeping at night but they can be used for midday naps or when you’re trying to fall asleep on a plane or while traveling. Make the guided practice work for you. Whatever is comfortable, and however you wish to visualize, is up to you. Make the practice simple, easy, and work for you. There’s no need to overcomplicate it.
How meditation helps you sleep
Anxious thoughts and worries are cited as the number one reason that people have trouble falling asleep at night. There are also clinical and psychological reasons that many people have difficulty getting a full nights rest.
Meditation has been shown to help train the mind to notice anxious thoughts as they arise, and distance itself from these thoughts non-judgmentally, instead of following these thoughts.
How often have you caught yourself, while trying to fall asleep, lost in thought for several minutes before realizing you’re in bed trying to sleep? Too often the mind can wander, and sometimes wander into worries, hypothetical situations, embarrassing or shameful events of the day or the past, or uncertainty of the future.
This often happens more at night when we’re trying to fall asleep than during the day because we’ve been distracting ourselves all day with work, school, obligations, and responsibilities that when we finally have some time in the dark, peaceful quiet, the mind can take this opportunity to surface worries and anxiety from the subconscious.
Meditation is a tool that can help us notice this pattern, become aware of it, and better deal with it at night.
In addition, meditation can be a very relaxing and calming practice, which can help create the conditions to fall asleep at night. Most meditative practices use and focus on the breath, which can be a vehicle to get you to a relaxed state.
How to meditate for sleep
One of the more effective ways to meditation for sleep is through visualization.
Using visualization, you slowly and gently power down your muscles and begin to relax your mind and body for a restful night’s sleep.
To begin, get comfortable in bed. You can lay on your back or side, whatever’s more comfortable for you. Close your eyes.
Next, begin by taking a few big, deep breaths. After a minute, begin to notice the physical points of contact. Your back and legs against the bed. Your feet and hands. The back of your head.
Notice as your body begins to sink into the bed.
Now, we’re going to begin to “power down” the muscles in our body to prepare for the night ahead and fall sleep.
When we’re powering down parts of our body, visualize it in any way that’s easiest and works for you. A suggestion may be gently and slowly pulling down a level that slowly powers down and relaxes the muscle.
So start with your feet, and picture yourself gently powering down your feet and the muscles and parts around your feet. The ankles. The toes.
Move up to the knees and thighs and gently power down your upper legs. Notice as your legs begin to sink into your bed as they relax.
Move up to the hips, lower back, and stomach. Gently power down the muscles around the lower back. Power down the joints in the hips. Power down the stomach. Notice the energy and tension flow away from these parts of your body and relax.
Move up now to the chest and upper back, gently powering down and releasing and energy and tension.
Bring your attention to your shoulders and upper arms. Notice the joints and muscles around the shoulders. Gently pull the levers down and power down the shoulders and upper arms.
Slowly move down to the rest of the arms and hands. Powering down and releasing energy and tension. Notice how the arms sink comfortably and relaxed into the bed.
Notice the wrists, fingers, and elbows.
Begin to power down the neck, chin and jaw. Notice if you’re holding any tension. Power down these parts of the body and allow them to relax.
Finally, move up to the face and top of the head. Powering down and gently pulling down the level to release energy and tension around the face and head. Notice if your head sinks a little into the pillow as all energy is released.
Notice how the body feels. Notice the comfort, calmness, and stillness.
If you’re comfortable, remain in your position, or turn to a more comfortable position, and prepare to asleep.
If it helps, begin to count down from one thousand, and sleep.
Other ways to create the perfect conditions for sleep
Other than meditation, there are other methods of creating the perfect conditions for a good night’s rest. It’s likely you may have tried many of these suggestions before if you’re here reading about guided meditation for sleep, but there may be others here that you haven’t tried.
Read before bed
One of the most productive and relaxing habits you should look to cultivate is a nightly reading routine. It should be light reading, something that’s either entertaining or informative.
Try creating a routine where an hour before when you’d like to go to bed, you start reading. Ideally, you should read in bed, as sleeping in a bed for many years conditions your mind to start relaxing and preparing for sleep.
Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone that’s found in the human body. It functions as a regulator for sleep cycles. It can also be taken as a supplement to help you fall asleep at night by kicking in this cycle.
When it becomes dark outside, the body releases melatonin to signal to you that it’s time for sleep. However, for people with irregular sleeping habits, this system can become disrupted and thus, affect your sleep.
Who doesn’t love coffee and tea? Even if you only drink coffee or tea early in the day, experiment with removing caffeine from your diet completely. If you drink a lot of coffee, this is even more relevant.
Use white noise
White noise is calming and steady sounds that can be played at night to not only drown out noises that might awaken you, but also relax you. There are white noise machines and apps you can buy, but even something like leaving the air conditioner on or turning on a fan at night can create calming white noise.
Lower the room temperature
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, throwing the covers off and on you, try experimenting with the temperature of the room at night. Studies show that cooler temperatures help with sleep, the cooler, the better.
Stop using electronics several hours before bed
Electronics such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops emit a blue light from their screens. This blue light signals to your brain “it’s daytime, stay awake!”. So while it might be 11pm, these stimulating devices are keeping you awake and tricking your brain. This can affect your circadian rhythm by throwing it off.
At least an hour before bed, stop using devices such as your laptop or phone. Instead, as we mentioned earlier, read from a book or try some other winding down routine to prepare you for bed.
Regularly exercising is not only good for the body but it’s good for the brain. There’s certainly something to tiring yourself out enough that you have no choice but to easily fall asleep at night.
Whether it’s lifting weights or going for a jog, start working out! You don’t need to workout before bed either. Working out first thing in the morning will still help you later in the day when you’re preparing to go to sleep.
Don’t obsess over your inability to fall asleep
How often have you been tossing and turning in bed, checking the clock every few minutes, becoming frustrated at your inability to fall asleep?
Encourage yourself at night to close your eyes and not open them until you fall asleep or it’s time to get up, whichever comes first. Even if you don’t fall asleep, tell yourself you’re at least resting at night. Close your eyes and keep them closed and at a minimum, get your rest. Even if you don’t fall asleep, you’re resting. This mentality is more productive and you’ll find that sometimes, you’ll even end up falling asleep.
Get on a schedule and stick to it
Above all, create a sleep schedule at try to stick to it. Humans are creatures of habit, and your circadian rhythm loves habit. Set reminders on your phone to get ready for bed at the same time everyday. Then, set an alarm to get up at the same time everyday.
A routine will help your body release the necessary chemicals and hormones at the right time every night. Irregular sleeping habits makes it more difficult for your mind and body to get into a regular sleeping groove.