Is Mindful Meditation the Key to Better Sleep?

Written by on March 23, 2019 in Meditation with 0 Comments

Busy, tumultuous lives are the norm these days. While it’s great to get things done, most of us are subject to more mental clutter than our minds are really meant to handle. This often leads to thought loops and worries that can last long into the night, robbing us of precious sleep. Luckily, mindfulness and meditation can make a difference.

Why Meditation Helps with Sleep

Meditation offers many benefits: It has been scientifically proven to improve mental health overall, and it’s likely to help you feel happier. Meditation can reduce blood pressure. It’s good for heart health and researchers believe that it may even reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Some studies show that meditation helps with pain relief. Research suggests that meditation increases the production of melatonin, which is an essential sleep hormone. Last but not least, meditation clears your mind, reduces stress, and relieves physical tension – a trifecta that can lead to better sleep patterns over time.

How to Use Mindfulness for Better Sleep

Any meditation format can help release melatonin, but simple mindfulness is often best for use at bedtime.

The practice of mindfulness is itself a form of meditation. When you’re mindful, you are focusing on the present rather than allowing your worries to overtake your imagination, and you are actively choosing to focus on how your body is feeling. There is nothing complicated about using mindfulness techniques to sleep better.

The best way to begin this type of meditation is to stretch out and notice how good it feels to focus on the release of muscle tension. Deep, slow breathing helps promote relaxation too, and when you focus on your breath and the way the air feels as it flows into and out of different parts of your body, you are keeping your mind in a state of relaxed activity. In essence, your meditating mind is too busy to grab onto other thoughts but relaxed enough to gradually release consciousness and let you fall asleep.

While you might be tempted to command yourself to relax during mindfulness or meditation, this can backfire by causing pressure and stress. Try to simply foster a sense of acceptance and keep returning your focus to subtle physical sensations.

As with other forms of meditation, it’s important not to worry if you are having other thoughts while you work on relaxing before sleep. Simply notice that the thought took place, and then return your focus to your breath and the feelings in your body.

You may want to incorporate body scanning into this mindfulness method. Body scanning begins when you place your attention on your feet and imagine them relaxing and feeling heavy. Gradually work your way over your entire body and to the top of your head, focusing on each body part’s comfort and relaxation as you go. Paired with deep breathing, this form of mindfulness may very well lull you off to sleep.

If you need help getting started with mindfulness, you might want to try an app such as Calm or Headspace. Both are free to try, and both are available for iOS and Android devices.

Guided Meditation for Sleep

If you like, you can try guided sleep meditations. There are many wonderful podcasts, YouTube channels, apps and other resources available, and many of them are free to try so you can easily determine whether they’ll work for you.

Many guided sleep meditations lead you through a relaxing body scan during the first several minutes and then go on to provide other visualizations designed to ease you off into a peaceful sleep. Guided meditation may be more useful than mindfulness for sleep if you are still learning to manage your thoughts while meditating. The sound of a soothing voice paired with gentle suggestions about sleep lulls most people off before the meditation comes to an end.  

More Keys to Better Sleep

While mindfulness and meditation can make a huge difference, multiple factors contribute to our ability to fall asleep quickly and enjoy sound, peaceful sleep throughout the night. Here are a few things to do and not to do before bed, as well as some suggestions for managing your sleep environment so that it is as comfortable and relaxing as possible.

Attend to your physical comfort

Ensure that you have used the restroom, brushed your teeth, and applied lotion to any skin that might be dry or itchy. A comfortable mattress is vital for good sleep, and if you have any health issues, make sure that your mattress is designed to alleviate the problem rather than make it worse.

For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis pain, there are specific arthritic mattresses which keep the pressure off your joints and provide relief. Be sure that your pillows keep your neck and head comfortably supported, and dress your bed in sheets and blankets that feel wonderful and appeal to your sense of aesthetics.

SleepingCulture have put together a good resource of mattress reviews which you can read by clicking the link.

Allow your core temperature to drop

Our body temperature naturally drops a few degrees as we prepare for sleep. Be sure that you support your body’s natural thermoregulation process by setting your thermostat to a comfortable temperature. If it’s too hot or cold, you’ll probably have trouble falling asleep. Most people find it easiest to sleep at temperatures between 62 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid exposure to blue light

As much as we love our electronic devices, it’s important to take a break, especially at bedtime. Not only are you giving your brain a break from stimulation, you are also stopping exposure to blue light, which tells the body that it’s time to be awake. If you are using an app or guided meditation to get to sleep, set your screen to black if possible, or activate blue light blocking mode in your device settings. Many experts agree that you should avoid exposure to blue light for at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed. One study showed that it’s best to avoid exposure to blue light for two hours before bed.

Avoid caffeine later in the day

Coffee and tea offer some remarkable benefits, but it’s best to limit consumption of your favorite caffeinated beverages to the morning hours so that they’re completely out of your system when bedtime arrives. If you are highly sensitive to caffeine, you may want to keep consumption of chocolate to a minimum during afternoon and evening since it, too, contains a little caffeine.


It has been suggested that just 45 minutes of relaxing music before falling asleep can lead to longer periods of sleep, improved quality of sleep, and lowered dysfunction levels during the waking day. Music has also been reported to aid productivity in the workplace as well as study.

Reconsider that nightcap

If you have a tendency to enjoy wine with dinner or indulge in evening cocktails, you may want to reconsider your habit. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy but it can lead to wakefulness later at night.

Consider gentle sleep supplements

Herbs like valerian and hops can help with sleep, and so can melatonin supplements. Even a simple cup of chamomile tea can help you drift off a little bit faster.

If insomnia persists, consider checking in with your health care practitioner to see whether an underlying condition might be to blame. In most cases though, a combination of mindfulness, other forms of meditation, and good sleep hygiene are likely to help you fall asleep faster and easier so you wake feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy whatever life brings your way.

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