Sleep Meditation: What Is It and Does It Work?
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness are well-documented: A quieter mind, less stress, more inner peace, a calmer mood and a boost for the brain (among many other perks). But can meditation also help you sleep? Yes – and there have even been studies on the practice. Sleep meditation is a popular P.M. habit, and it’s easy to implement. It doesn’t require any fancy equipment or outside assistance. It can be done from the comfort of your warm, cozy bed. And it’s a habit you can start tonight.
March is Sleep Awareness Month, the ideal time to reprioritize your own healthy rest and sleep hygiene. Read on to learn about sleep meditation – and how you can use meditation for sleep even if you’re a total beginner.
What Is Sleep Meditation?
Sleep meditation is simply meditation aimed at helping you feel more relaxed and ready to sleep. This practice can be something you do on your own, or a teacher can guide you. The goal is to create a restful experience that helps you quiet the mind, drift into deep slumber and awake restored. (Hmm… where have we heard that before?)
Meditation for sleep can help you shift between being awake and falling asleep. It can be as simple as focusing on your breath while counting, or you can use an app or video.
Sleep meditation doesn’t have to require any special training, skills, tools or equipment. It can be your regular meditation routine, performed in bed or just before bed. You can even try it if you’ve never meditated in your entire life!
Does It Really Work?
Yes, research supports sleep meditation and mindfulness meditation as a way to help you get better sleep. Researchers report that a mindfulness practice can improve the quality of sleep and reduce cognitive interferences (aka all those worries and fears that only seem to pop into your mind when you lie down to go to bed).
The Benefits of Sleep Meditation
No matter the time of day, mindfulness and meditation can be powerful self-care tools. But with seven out of 10 US adults reporting that they don’t get enough sleep at least once a month, meditation is a helpful practice you can add to your bedtime routine. (As a reminder, adults need seven or more hours each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Here’s a look at some of the benefits of sleep meditation:
- A healthy brain: Meditation can change the brain. Research from 2016 revealed that those who maintained a long-term meditation practice had larger (read: younger!) brains than peers of the same age who did not meditate.
- A more relaxed state of mind: By slowing down the body and breath, you can shift your body into a more relaxed state. This happens by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system (or “rest and digest”).
- Steady emotional health: A 2011 study found that the bad or negative things in life have less of an impact on people who meditate. But, it’s important to note, their ability to process positive events and feelings is not impacted.
- A healthy memory: Research from 2019 supports meditation as a way to maintain healthy memory. After an eight-week program, meditators improved their attention as well as recognition and working memory. Even better? These meditations lasted only 13 minutes!
5 Meditations to Try
Ready to give it a try? Start with these five practices.
1. Sound meditation
This form of meditation uses soothing musical instruments (including bowls, harps, drums and other percussive or harmonic instruments) to help you relax and focus. The practice helps shift your brain into a more restful state.
Listen to Tibetan healing sounds, experience sound baths with crystal bowls or check out this combination of bowls and soothing vocals.
2. Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is well-suited for sleep. If you already have a practice, simply move it to bedtime. One simple technique you can try in bed involves your favorite Hello Dreams™ sleep strip. You’ll use the minty, herbal strip to help you focus on your body, using your senses.
- Climb into bed and get comfortable. Place your Mulberry Silk Sleep Mask on your head (but don’t cover your eyes just yet). Make sure your sleep strips are within reach.
- Unwrap the strip, and place it on your tongue.
- Settle back, place the mask over your eyes and let the strip start to melt.
- Focus on the sensations you observe: the flavor, the change in texture, the darkened room. Notice your breath and focus on slowing it down.
- As the strip melts, feel the day melt away with it. Each time you exhale, let go of something from the day. (Make sure you swallow as needed.)
- Once the strip melts, keep focusing on your breath and let yourself drift off. If your mind wanders, return to your breath.
3. Yoga nidra
Also known as “yogic sleep,” yoga nidra is a form of rest that retains awareness. It was designed centuries ago as a way to travel through the body’s five layers of awareness (known as koshas).
While it looks like you’re taking a nap as you listen to a guided meditation, there’s a lot more going on. For this practice, you’ll want to use an app or a video. Try these:
- Yoga Nidra | Guided Meditation to Relax, Rejuvenate & Reform | Anandmurti Gurumaa
- Pure Blissful Relaxation and Stress Relief / Yoga Nidra Meditation / Mindful Movement
- 27 Minute Yoga Nidra – Full Nervous System Massage
4. Body scan meditation
This is an easy sleep meditation for beginners, since you can do it without any outside help. It’s also a good one to keep in mind when you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Start by lying in bed on your back, lights off. You can keep your sleep mask on.
- Beginning at your feet, tense one body part at a time as you inhale, then release it as you exhale.
- Continue moving up your body, one breath at a time. Picture yourself letting go of the day’s stress and worries with each exhale.
- Once you reach your head, tense your whole body and relax.
- If needed, travel back down from the head to the feet.
5. Sleep stories
These stories are intentionally slow and rather dull, to provide soothing white noise in the background without the distraction of an exciting plotline.
Here’s one to get you started: The Nordland Night Train with Erik Braa. Fans of Bridgerton might want to check out the Calm app, which now features stories read by Regé-Jean Page.Yes, melatonin can help you sleep, but it’s not enough. By building a toolbox of healthy sleep habits, from sleep meditation to taking Hello Dreams™ sleep strips with melatonin and Calm Down™ herbal blend, you’ll set yourself up for a good night’s rest.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.