Deep sleep is something most of us could do with more of! If you have a sleep tracker, you may notice that deep sleep can be hard to come by.
The key to getting more, though, begins during the day. Diet, caffeine consumption, and stress can all have a large effect on your sleep, but today we’ll be discussing how to use meditation as a way to improve your sleep.
Deep sleep meditation may sound complicated or new-agey, but it’s a surprisingly effective way of training your brain to work with you when it comes to getting the rest you need.
We’ll explain why this is a super thing to add to your nightly routine, but also why you should add it to your day if you get a chance.
Let’s get into it!
Life is hectic! We’re constantly bombarded with stuff, whether it’s projects at work or maintenance that needs to be done at home. It’s not surprising, then, that when we finally have some quiet time, our minds tend to struggle to calm down.
This is when random thoughts pop into your head, like that email you forget to send, how your boss may react in your meeting tomorrow, or that repair work that needs to be done.
Practicing meditation helps to reduce stress, quietens the mind, and allows you to be present in the moment.
The great news is that meditation can be used for various things. With a little practice, you can use meditation to help you relax, get to sleep sooner, and sleep for longer. Here's what you need to know about how meditation can help you get more deep sleep.
What is Meditation?
Meditation isn’t a religious practice, a “new-age” thing, or a way of emptying your brain. It’s simply a practice of focused attention and awareness.
When it comes to meditating, focus is the important thing. You’ll direct your attention to one thing (for example, a candle flame or your own breathing) and hold it there for as long as possible.
That’s it! Nothing strange, cult-like, or wacky.
How Can Meditation Help With Deep Sleep?
It’s not how long you sleep for, but the quality of sleep you get that will help you to feel more refreshed when you wake up. By including meditation to your nightly routine, you’ll be activating your parasympathetic nervous system. This prepares your body to go to sleep, as it slows both your breathing and heart rate.
Meditation helps us focus on being present and redirects our attention to our body. This stops your mind from running rampant as you focus on how you feel and the sound of your breathing, without trying to change anything.
As your body begins to relax, your breathing and heart rate will slow down. You may find that you fall asleep halfway through your meditation. That’s not a bad thing (if you’re meditating as part of your nightly routine, maybe not in your lunch break!), and it will also increase the quality of sleep you get!
How To Meditate for Better Deep Sleep
It often seems like there’s not enough time to get everything done during the day. This can create stress and anxiety, which will often make it difficult to sleep at night.
Research has shown that meditation can help with sleep and if you make some minor adjustments throughout the day, you’ll find it easier to add meditation to your every evening.
Start During The Day
Scientific research shows that the devices you use during the day, up to an hour before you go to bed, have an impact on the quality of your sleep. It doesn’t just impact the amount of sleep you get, but the quality of sleep too.
To get a decent night’s rest, your mind needs to be calm and relaxed. It’s only once the distractions are gone that we notice how active our minds are! This is when the forgotten emails, to-do lists, and moments of panic come up.
Look at your daily schedule. See what you could do while you’re working that would help your mind feel more relaxed at home. This could be something like:
- Creating a checklist of tomorrow’s activities before you leave work.
- Journaling your thoughts and feelings as they pop up during the day.
- Doing a quick 10-minute meditation during your lunch break to reframe your mind.
These things will help you feel more prepared for the next day and foster a better mindset. Preparation and a great attitude and mindset can help you have a more rested mind by the time you get home.
Get Your Mindset Right
This also begins during the day, to an extent. You’ll notice that when you meditate regularly, it becomes easier to go through your day more patiently, and keep your mindset positive and light.
Whatever your mind was doing during the day, when you settle down to do your nightly meditation, you’ll want to reset that mindset to a light, calm, and positive one.
You’re going to allow your body to relax and your mind to drift away. You’re not going to be thinking of going to sleep. You’re not going to be thinking about your breathing either.
When you start to meditate, let go of any tension you may be feeling and try not to think about anything. If you do find stray thoughts popping up, let them pass like a stranger on the street!
It’s a good idea to use a guided meditation when you're just beginning, as this will help you to follow instructions without giving too much thought to it.
You’ll find that some sleep-guided meditation programs will begin by focusing on gratitude. It’s a way of achieving the right mindset before they take you through the different stages of relaxation.
The more you practice meditation, the faster your body will relax and your mind will chill out. .
Watch Your Breathing
If you’re doing a guided meditation, they’ll most likely ask you to pay attention to your breathing. You could be asked to do some breathing exercises during the meditation.
The breathing exercises will help to slow your breathing down, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This signals the body that it’s time to go to sleep.
If you can’t do a guided meditation or just feel like doing your own thing, paying attention to your breathing is one of the easiest ways to keep your mind focused on something regular.
Here are some good ways to keep focused on your breathing:
- Breathe in to the sound of six before exhaling. Repeat as many times as necessary.
- Breathe in to the count of four, hold it for two seconds, breathe out to the count of four, hold it for two seconds. Repeat as many times as necessary.
The idea is simply to keep doing these patterns over and over again, to keep your mind focused on it for as long as possible.
As you work through your guided meditation, you could be asked to focus on different things. One of the most common is breathing, but another is body awareness.
You may be asked to focus on your body, specifically where each body part is touching the bed. This helps to relax each part of the body separately.
A really great and easy way to do this is to start visualizing your body as a house with lights on, and that it’s time to “switch off”. You can start at the top of your head or your toes, and switch each part of the body off as you move down or up.
You may be asked to imagine a particular scene in detail. The idea behind this is to induce a similar mental state to that of hypnosis. You could also just be asked to lie in silence, or you may even have to count slowly.
All of these techniques would all help to slow the mind down. If you find your mind straying to thoughts of work, just start to focus on your breathing again. This will help to stop the thought process from going any further.
Meditation will also help you to identify the body parts where you hold your stress. Most people hold tension in their neck, shoulders and back. Some people also hold a lot of stress in their legs (which could account for restless legs!).
As you begin to relax and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, the body will stop producing stress hormones. Your body and mind will start to feel calmer, and your muscles will begin to relax.
You can also use the body awareness technique to stretch and loosen each muscle.
By practicing meditation every evening before you go to bed, you can train your body to relax on demand.
Don’t expect this to happen overnight! It will take about 30 days for you to notice that your meditation is more effective and that your quality of sleep has improved.
Meditation Mistakes to Avoid
Meditation requires practice and patience. Chances are, you’re not going to get it right on the first try, but that’s totally okay!
You may have to try different techniques or guided meditations to find what works best for you. However, there are some common mistakes that beginners make that you can make sure to avoid from the start.
Trying Too Hard
While meditating, you can’t try and force yourself to sleep. This can end up doing the opposite and awakening your brain more, as you wonder things like:
- Why isn’t it working?
- Am I doing this wrong?
- How long have I been trying?
- Shouldn’t I have fallen asleep by now?
Don’t try and empty your mind, either. This can lead you to creating tension in your body as you get frustrated, because you’ll find that emptying your mind is close to impossible!
The best thing to do is allow yourself to be guided by the meditation. Don’t question yourself and start to wonder if you’re doing the technique right! All you have to do is follow these instructions and everything else will fall into place.
Only Meditating in Bed
While meditation is great for helping you get to sleep, you don’t have to limit yourself to only meditating in the evenings. Even a quick little 5-minute meditation during the day can help put your mind in a better place and improve your evening meditation.
There are different types of meditation you can try, like movement meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or even a mindfulness meditation.
These meditations will help with relaxation, but can also help to:
- Improve memory
- Improve focus
- Reduce negative emotions, like anger or frustration
Meditating during the day can help to lower blood pressure and improve your mood throughout the day.
By adding meditation to your day, it could help to improve your meditation before you go to sleep in the evenings too. Remember, getting your mindset right starts during the day!
“Emptying Your Mind”
Meditating is not about getting rid of thoughts that come up. It’s about redirecting your attention to focus on something else.
Our minds love to solve problems! When we’re not actively using the mind or paying attention to our thoughts, they’ll try to get our attention.
Don’t hold on to any thought that comes up. There’ll be plenty of time to analyze your thoughts later on! The first few times you try to meditate your mind will bombard you with thoughts.
Avoiding thought is impossible. Simply let your thoughts pass by like someone you’re passing in the street. All you need to do is acknowledge the thought, let it pass, and then focus on your breathing.
It’s impossible to sit with your thoughts and be mindful about your breathing at the same time! Try it for yourself and you’ll see how true this is.
If you’re focused on your breathing, you can’t be worrying! If you’re still worrying, you aren’t paying attention to your breathing.
Meditating regularly, and with the right attitude, can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep!
If you like being guided, there are many deep sleep meditation tracks out there that you can try. It’s likely you’ll end up finding one that works really well for you, and you’ll stick to that one.
If you’d prefer to not hear a voice telling you what to do, you can’t go wrong with focusing on your breath. You may like to put a relaxing track on or listen to some binaural beats.
Whatever your preferences is, meditation is something that everyone should add to their nightly routine. It doesn’t matter if you do 5 minutes or 45 minutes - the important thing is that you do it with the right mindset!
Be patient, commit to doing it every night, and you’ll start to see the difference in your deep sleep and the days that follow.
Happy meditating (and sleeping!).