If you take a look around you, you'll see that meditation is pretty trendy lately. However, the powerful ancient practice is so much more than just a trend. Setting a few moments aside for stillness and mindfulness each day can have such an incredibly positive effect on so many aspects of your life. Specifically, if done right before bed, meditation can help you sleep soundly and deeply throughout the night, and all you need to get started is your very own body and breath.
When you first begin a meditation practice, it might be unsettling to face your thoughts and bodily sensations head-on. However, in time, you'll come to realize that mindfulness allows you to sit with your body, let uncomfortable sensations wash over you like waves, and watch them slowly drift away with the newfound ability to release the control that these things usually have over you. This can be especially useful if you have difficulty falling or staying asleep at night.
Stress, anxiety, trauma, and a variety of other factors can all mess with your sleep schedule, but luckily, these are all things that meditation can help manage and soothe, according to HelpGuide.
In fact, according to a 2015 study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, meditation is one of the most powerful tools for improving your sleep. In the study, 49 adults, who all reported having sleep troubles prior to being enrolled in the research, were split into two groups: One group was instructed to complete a mindfulness meditation program, and the other simply attended "sleep education classes," according to Harvard Health, which mostly focused on having them learn about general ways to improve their sleep habits. Each group participated in their respective programs for six weeks, and by the end, the results showed that those who were meditating experienced "less insomnia, fatigue, and depression" compared to those who weren't meditating, Harvard Health reports.
Now, you may think this is simply due to the fact that meditation is literally the act of quieting and ridding all of your thoughts, which then allows you to fall asleep instantly. Sure, that's obviously part of what's going on, but there's actually more to the science than just that.
Shelby Harris, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine, told Fitness Magazine that harboring an array of worries when you're trying to catch some shut-eye is what really keeps you from falling asleep, because it makes your body and mind tense up. But if you take a few minutes to meditate before bed, Harris explained, it'll help set the stage for a peaceful night of rest by allowing you to focus on the present moment, rather than on worries from earlier in the day.
If you've never meditated before, and the concept is kind of intimidating to wrap your head around, there are a lot of easy, approachable ways to get started with the practice.
According to MindBodyGreen, even the the most basic mental exercises, such as counting backwards from 100, can be considered a form of meditation. There really is no "right" or "wrong" when it comes to your nighttime mindfulness rituals, and they definitely don't have to include complicated breathing practices or intricate visualization assignments.
Some other nighttime meditation techniques that could work for you include repeating a calming and relaxing mantra over and over in your mind until you drift off into dreamland, or implementing some deep abdominal breathing as you lay in bed to help you unwind.
The one thing you probably want to avoid before bed is the use of meditation apps. As helpful as they are most of the time, using technology in the evening can stimulate your brain and potentially keep you awake even longer.
But rest assured, a few minutes of deep and expansive breathing, or simple, mindful counting exercises, should do the trick and help you sleep like a baby, my ~zen~ friend. Sweet dreams!