It goes without saying that quality sleep is so important for your overall health. Unfortunately, restful sleep isn’t always easy to achieve. If you’ve tried everything from counting sheep to scrolling through Facebook and it just doesn’t work, you might want to consider meditation for a better night’s sleep.
Perhaps you’ve never tried meditating because you thought it was too spiritual or New Age-y; if that’s the case, you’ll be thrilled to know that meditation is easy, simple, and anyone can do it, no matter how far you think you are from “enlightenment.” Besides, regular meditating before sleep just might be the key to cure your nighttime woes. #Winning.
April is Stress Awareness Month, which means it’s the perfect time to consider meditating for the first time. Meditation is a wonderful way to get in touch with your thoughts and feelings, while connecting with your body. And thanks to apps like Headspace, Calm, and YogaGlo, mental bliss can be found with a few taps on your iPhone.
If you’re looking for a break from your phone altogether, though (we don’t blame you!), you can also do a self-guided meditation in bed using music, candles, or simply dimming the lights and closing your eyes — the great thing about meditation is that you can make it your own. There are no rules.
“Keep it simple. You don’t need any fancy techniques, though for some people they can be helpful.”
“To get the most out of your meditation practice the most important thing is consistency,” Cruikshank tells HG. “The frequency is more important than the duration, so I generally recommend starting with 3-5 minutes a day and not increasing until you feel you absolutely want to and then increasing just a couple minutes every so often.” Doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Here are seven reasons you should give it a shot and make meditation a part of your routine every single night.
1. It helps prepare your mind and body for rest
After a long day, it can be hard for most of us to unwind and actually let ourselves rest. This is why meditating is actually the perfect thing to do before bedtime. Practicing meditation regularly will train your brain to know that this new habit equals sleep time, and it’s an easy way to send yourself mental and physical signals that the day is done.
“Meditating before sleep is a great way to trigger the parasympathetic response to help the body and mind wind down in order to optimize your body’s ability to move through the sleep cycles which helps us get a deep restful sleep,” Cruikshank says.
2. It allows you to mentally separate from your day
Many people have a hard time letting their thoughts go at the end of the day, and this can be even worse if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, insomnia, or are under stress. Meditation provides you with a space to collect your thoughts and feelings, whether you’re hung up on the rest of your to-do list or a fight you had with a friend. You can give your brain permission to let these thoughts and worries go, which is something we all need from time to time.
3. It helps you find calm and focus
Most of us spend our days constantly on-the-go, and that can be dizzying — and downright stressful — on our minds and bodies. Meditation is a scientifically proven way to reduce anxiety, ease depressive symptoms, and help the brain reduce distractions and improve cognition.
“A lot of [recent] research revolves around the effects on the parasympathetic nervous system which regulates the internal organ function and influences so many parts of the body and brain,” Cruikshank agrees. “It’s critical for things like sleep, energy level, digestion and immune function. There’s also a lot of positive research around meditation’s capacity to help with cognitive function, meaning our memory, concentration and learning capacity.” These are all things that even the most naturally Zen people can benefit from.
4. It is a great natural sleep aid
Let’s face it: there are no shortage of sleep remedies out there to choose from when you’re in dire need of serious beauty rest. From prescription aids to supplements like melatonin, and even “folk remedies” involving foods like deep breaths with onions, there are lots of methods to help with sleep, however wacky they may seem.
But meditating is totally natural, and it won’t come with any of the weird side effects that can come with medication and supplements. It’s also much healthier for you than other pre-bed rituals, like watching TV or scrolling Instagram (sorry, guys).
5. It relieves physical tension
Many guided meditations allow you to connect with each part of your body, encouraging you to feel the weight of your body in the bed, and sending deep breaths to specific areas. This is a great way to relieve tension in parts of your body like your back, neck, and hands, which can freeze up when you’re under stress. You’ll feel instantly better, all thanks to the power of the mind.
6. It doesn’t take up much of your time
It’s okay to admit that you’d rather not add another task to your bedtime routine. But Cruikshank insists that only a few minutes of meditation is all you need, saying, “More isn’t necessarily better. Studies have shown that you get benefits from just 5 minutes a day so don’t aim to meditate for 30 minutes…find a length that feels most helpful, [so you can focus] and not worry about how much time you have.”
7. It can benefit you throughout your day — not just at bedtime
Real talk: it can be tough to practice mindful thinking throughout your day, especially when you’re busy, stressed, or under the weather. Plus, there are so many distractions around us at all times. The few brief, quiet moments we have are frequently filled with checking our phones or email. But meditating regularly will give you the tools to check in with yourself and be more present even when you’re not meditating, and that’s something we can all benefit from as we tackle the frenetic pace of life each day.
So whether you’re struggling with insomnia or simply looking for an easy way to improve sleep quality, give meditation a try. A few minutes of deep, mindful breaths can do wonders for the mind, body, and soul.