How Does Meditation Help you Sleep? - by guest blogger Ellie Porter of SleepHelp.org
If there were one thing you could do to be healthier overall in your life, that would be to get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a world where sleep is usually our highest priority. More than 35 percent of Americans report not getting that much sleep on a regular basis.
There's a variety of reasons that we don't get as much sleep as we should, but one thing that science and practitioners agree on is that meditation helps you sleep.
Meditation brings your body and mind together creating a deep psychological shift that can ease the effects of stress on your body. When you meditate, it focuses your breathing and lowers your blood pressure.
It also makes you more mindful of the way your body is acting at the moment, making you more likely to notice if something is wrong.
The deep breathing exercises that are an integral part of mindfulness meditation help to calm all of the physical effects of stress, from a racing heartbeat to tight muscles. It also helps you to retrain your body to have less of a physical reaction to emotional stressors
It’s also been found to help long-term practitioners sleep more deeply, which is signified by increased rapid eye movement (REM), brain activity, and alertness during REM sleep. In fact, they sleep so much more deeply, that judging by their sleep cycle, you’d guess they were significantly younger.
Even for the approximately 50 percent of older adults who complain of sleeping poorly were found to sleep better when they meditated regularly. For those who haven’t tried it before, The New York Times has a guide.
If you find that you need more activity to make meditation work for you, it can easily be worked into an evening walk or into a yoga routine, which will do even more for your muscles.
To make your meditation as relaxing as possible, you should try lighting a candle with a soothing scent like lavender, to help it become a part of your routine. Meditating can even be done from your bed as long as you have a firm enough mattress so that you don't sink and overstretch.
Dr. Herbert Benson of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine spoke about meditation in a 2015 Harvard Health Blog. He recommends meditating for at least 20 minutes a day, allowing yourself to be fully conscious, but not mentally processing what’s happening around you.
Choose something calm to focus on, such as your breath, a word or a phrase, or a particular muscle in your body and relax everything else for 20 minutes. This practice puts you in a better position to work through any sleep disorders and disturbances by helping you recognize the thoughts, feelings and other sensations that are keeping you awake at night.
If you find that meditation helps, but you are still unable to sleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about a sleep study to rule out any sleep disorders.