How to Improve Your Sleep and Well-Being with Bedtime Meditation
If you experience sleep problems, you know how extreme the ripple effects of poor sleep can be. From suffering from headaches to losing focus, the list of sleep-deprivation consequences goes on and on.
So, if you're looking for a solution to help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep throughout the night, meditation could be the answer you're looking for. Keep reading to learn more about how to use bedtime meditation for better sleep.
How Nighttime Meditation Can Benefit Your Sleep
Meditation is a powerful tool. It can help reduce stress, calm the mind, and promote relaxation, all of which can lead to improved sleep.
Research has shown that regular meditation practice can do the following:
- Reduce stress and anxiety: Meditation can reduce the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in the body, which can help promote relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Lower blood pressure: Meditation can help lower blood pressure, leading to greater overall relaxation and improved sleep.
- Regulate your sleep-wake cycle: Meditation can increase levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm and regulate your sleep-wake cycles.
Indeed powerful, right?
How to Meditate in Bed: A Step-By-Step Guide
Now you know the benefits of meditation, but how do you actually do it?
When you're thinking about nighttime meditation, or sleeping meditation, specifically, you usually have one of two goals in mind: relax your body and mind, or fall asleep fast. Regardless of which goal your meditation focuses on, the way you settle in and start your meditation can look the same.
So, here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through how to meditate in bed:
Step 1: Choose a Comfortable Position
Start by getting into a comfortable position in your bed, either on your back or your side. And know that you can adjust your position at any time if you start to feel any discomfort or pain. It's a myth that you need to remain perfectly still while you meditate.
Step 2: Relax Your Body
Once you're comfortable, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and begin to relax your body and mind. Each time you exhale, focus on releasing any tension in your muscles and letting go of any stress or worries from the day.
Step 3: Set Your Intention
Decide on your intention for this bedtime meditation session. It could be anything from cultivating calm and relaxation to reflecting on your day to feeling a little gratitude to actually falling asleep. What do you hope to achieve with this meditation?
Step 4: Focus on Your Breath
After you've set your intention, shift your attention to your breath, and begin to focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body through your nose or mouth. To help you settle your attention on your breath, you can silently count each exhale, or you can think to yourself "in" each time you inhale and "out" each time you exhale.
Step 5: Stay Present
When your mind inevitably starts to wander (that’s normal!), gently return your focus to your breath—without judgment. Just stay calm, and be kind to yourself.
Step 6: Follow Through with Your Intention
After your breath has helped you relax, move your attention from your breath toward whatever your intention was for the meditation session. For example, if your intention was deeper relaxation, you could perform a quick body scan meditation, relaxing your muscles from your head to your toes. Or if your intention was gratitude, you could use a different meditation technique, bringing to mind three things you appreciated about your day and noticing how recalling those things makes you feel in your body.
Step 7: End the Session
When you're ready to end your meditation session (if you haven't fallen asleep already!), take a few deep breaths before slowly bringing your awareness back to the present moment and your current surroundings. Take a moment to reflect on how your bedtime meditation session made you feel before drifting to sleep.
Alternatively, you can also choose to use guided meditation for sleep, letting a coach walk you through your meditation practice instead of guiding yourself. To find a coach, you can download a mobile app with guided meditations for sleep—and likely many other types of meditation, too—or follow along with a relaxing YouTube meditation.
4 Tips for Creating a Peaceful Environment
Let's say you follow the steps above but still can't relax and fall asleep after meditating in bed. If that's true for you, your bedroom could be the culprit because research shows that environmental factors, such as light, noise, and temperature, can all influence your sleep quality.
So, here are some tips to help you create a peaceful environment in your bedroom that promotes relaxation and mindfulness:
- Dim the lights or use a soft lamp to create a calming atmosphere and avoid suppressing your melatonin levels.
- Set the temperature to a comfortable level, neither too hot nor too cold. As a general rule, somewhere between 60 to 67° F (15 to 19° C) can enhance your sleep.
- Put on some white noise or other calming music to block out any distracting sounds.
- Remove any electronic devices from your bedroom to minimize distractions and disruptions.
The look, sound, and feel of a peaceful environment is different for everyone. So experiment until you figure out a set up that works for you.
Dealing with Common Challenges of Nighttime Meditation
Even with the best of intentions, challenges are bound to arise from time to time while you're meditating in bed, hoping to relax deeply and fall asleep fast. Here are some tips for dealing with some of the most common issues:
- Restlessness: It's common to feel restless or fidgety when you're trying to meditate in bed. To overcome this, try doing some light stretching or yoga before lying down. This can help you release any physical tension and make it easier to relax.
- Racing thoughts: A busy mind can make it difficult to focus on your breath and stay present during meditation. To help quiet racing thoughts, try using a simple mantra or affirmation in pattern with your breath, such as thinking to yourself "I am calm" each time you inhale, and "I am at peace" each time you exhale. This can help you anchor your attention to your breath, as well as bring a further sense of calm. And each time your mind wanders, just notice it before gently returning your attention to your breath.
- Physical discomfort: If you experience discomfort anywhere in your body while meditating in bed, try using additional pillows or blankets for support. You can also experiment with different positions until you find one that feels most comfortable for you.
- Impatience: If you find yourself feeling impatient or frustrated as you begin to incorporate meditation into your bedtime routine, remind yourself that meditation takes practice and patience, and each session is an opportunity for growth and learning. Be gentle with yourself and remember that consistency is key—the more regularly you practice meditation, the easier it will become over time.
Also, keep in mind that the ultimate goal of meditation for sleep is often to, well, fall asleep. So if you only get through the first minute or two of your nighttime meditation, view it as a success!
Additional Mindfulness Practices for Better Sleep
In addition to meditation, there are other mindfulness practices that can help promote relaxation and improve your sleep quality. Here are two to try:
1. Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises can help promote relaxation and reduce stress, and they're simple and free since your breath is always with you. To start, sit or lie down in a comfortable position, and then try one of these deep breathing patterns, counting silently to yourself as you do:
- Equal Breathing: Inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of four.
- Extended Exhaling: Inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of six.
- Box Breathing: Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold for a count of four.
If it's comfortable and accessible for you, we recommend breathing in through your nose and out through you mouth, but prioritize your comfort. And if at anytime you feel lightheaded, just return to your normal breathing pattern.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that promotes deep relaxation and reduces feelings of tension and stress. It involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. To try this technique, lie down in bed, take a deep breath, and then progressively tense the muscles in these areas of your body for a few seconds before relaxing them deeply:
- Your face and neck
- Your shoulders and upper back
- Your hands and fingers
- Your abdomen and hips
- Your upper and lower legs
- Your toes and feet
Remember to breathe normally and naturally as you do this, and repeat it as many times as you'd like.
Making Meditation a Regular Part of Your Bedtime Routine
To get the most benefit from meditation for sleep, it's important to make it a regular part of your bedtime routine. Here are some tips for building a consistent bedtime meditation practice:
- Set a goal for when and how often you want to meditate, such as every night when you get into bed.
- Find a meditation app you like to help keep things fresh and interesting.
- Track your overall sleep progress, perhaps with a wearable sleep tracker, and celebrate your successes.
- Be patient and kind to yourself, especially if you're new to meditation.
By incorporating meditation into your bedtime routine, you can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve your sleep quality. Whether you enjoy focusing on your breath, physical sensations, or feelings of love and compassion, there's a meditation practice that can work for you.
If you’re ready to see how meditation can benefit your sleep and overall well-being, take the first step by downloading the Balance meditation and sleep app on iOS or Android. It includes a whole library of research-backed guided meditations for sleep that you can use in bed, and it's completely free for your entire first year. So why not give it a try tonight?