Meditation before you go to sleep can work wonders, particularly if you’re struggling to unwind or have lots of thoughts flying through your head at the end of a busy day. ("Where did I leave my mask?" "Chirag deserved to win the Great British Baking Show." "Wait, did I brush my teeth?")
If you’re having problems drifting off to sleep, check out our list of sleepy podcasts. If those don't get you nodding off, a great second option is meditating in bed.
Falling asleep is kind of like trying to get a cat to jump in your lap – the more you try, the more it will resist. You just have to ignore it and it will come. Similarly, meditation keeps you from getting too wrapped up in your thoughts and feelings, which ultimately helps you fall asleep faster.
Does Meditation Improve Sleep?
Meditation was originally a spiritual idea, but over the years its use has evolved as a mind-body technique to relieve stress and insomnia.
Meditation doesn’t switch off thoughts or feelings; it allows you to observe them more objectively to better understand them. It can take practice to get the most out of it. Through meditation, you can create a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil sense of well-being, both of which can help improve your sleep. A study in 2015 showed that meditation improved sleep quality among adults with sleep disturbances.
While researchers aren't 100% sure why it is that meditating before bed can help improve sleep, there are several conclusions that can be drawn to show why it helps to practice meditation for a better sleep:
- meditation can reduce worry, which impacts quality of sleep
- meditation can reduce pain, which disrupts sleep
- meditation induces a state of relaxation which is conducive to transitioning to a sleep state
- people who meditate before going to sleep reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack by up to 50%...and any doctor will tell you that a heart attack is highly disruptive to sleep.
How To Meditate In Bed
There are lots of ways to meditate and lots of places to meditate. If your question is ‘can you meditate in bed’, the answer is very much yes. There are several meditation techniques that work really well when lying down as you can close your eyes and concentrate:
Progressive muscle relaxation
This technique involves focusing on specific areas of your body and tensing and relaxing the muscles in each part, one by one. Start at your head and work your way down your body to your toes. This helps you to release tension in your whole body, one part at a time - like wringing out a towel soaked with cortisol.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The idea is to breathe deep and slow - inhale deeply to the count of ten, hold for five, and exhale for ten. This is an excellent way to slow down your heart rate and start your preparation for a good night’s sleep.
Guided imagery / Visualization
With guided imagery, the concept is to imagine relaxing and tranquil scenes to bring about a sense of calm and relaxation. Research has shown that this is an effective meditation technique to help encourage sleep and has a similar effect to hypnosis.
This one is similar to progressive muscle relaxation, in that you focus on specific areas of the body, one at a time. Instead of tensing the muscles, you scan your body in your mind - focus on each part of the body and try to become aware, in a positive way, of the sensations and feelings in each area. This technique should take about 15 minutes to complete.
This is a technique that takes a bit of getting used to. The idea is to chant a ‘word’ - or at least some sounds that do not belong to a language (try "covfefe"). When you’re lying down, repeat these random syllables over and over. Keep at it and you’ll find that it helps you drift off to a deeper sleep.
Meditation apps / Guided meditation
If you’re new to mediation and are unsure of how to approach it, there are lots of meditation apps available that guide you through different techniques, scenarios and concepts. Using an audio app is a great way to meditate in bed as you can have the lights low, close your eyes, and relax as you listen along.
Identifying and dismissing persistent thoughts
When you’re struggling to sleep, have you ever noticed that the same thoughts return again and again, demanding your attention? ("Seriously, did I brush my teeth?") This meditation technique involves allowing those thoughts to come, observing them, and then letting them pass. You can visualize the thought being pushed away - this can take some time to perfect, as those thoughts can be stubborn little things, but over time you’ll be able to identify the thoughts that are disturbing your sleep so you’re able to let them float past. ("I did. I remember now.")
Maximizing The Benefits of Meditation for Sleep
It's clear that meditating in bed can help clear the mind and assist with a good night’s sleep. However, in order to make sure you maximize the benefits of your meditation, there are some steps you should follow when it comes to lifestyle and routine to help you get the most from it:
- Try to keep to a routine when it comes to times that you go to sleep and wake up.
- Keep your bed as a space used solely for sleep and sex (and meditation). This means not working on your laptop while in bed, watching TV or using your phone. The only screens in your room should be on the windows.
- Try to follow the same bedtime routine. We’re not suggesting that you become some sort of mindless automaton; just when it comes to preparation for bedtime, a routine is helpful to improve sleep quality.
- Avoid caffeine in the hours before sleep: six hours after you have a cup of coffee, half of it is still in your bloodstream and it can take over 12 hours to completely leave your system.
- Similarly, alcohol, while making you feel sleepy, actually reduces the quality of your sleep and can disrupt it so is best avoided where possible. (Also, drunken meditating is very difficult.)
- A cool, dark, bedroom will help you maximize the benefits of your meditation in bed.
- A generally active lifestyle can help sleep patterns, and combined with meditating in bed will help maximize the quality and duration of your sleep.
Not all techniques work for everyone, and people inevitably find their own meditation approach that works best for them, but hopefully if you try out the suggestions we’ve discussed here, one of them will click, and your meditation session before bed will help encourage better sleep.
And you'll be more present during your waking hours.
You, after a passionate night of meditating.