Sleep Meditation: Is This The Ultimate Relaxation?
Life can be incredibly hectic and with so much going on it can prove difficult to sleep well at the end of the day. This can start to cause problems, because of how important sleep is to our well being, but using techniques, such as sleep meditation, can help to significantly improve things.
In this article we will be looking at the benefits that meditation can offer you, introductory steps and ideas of how to develop a method that works for you, and other thoughts that will help with your overall sense of peace and happiness.
The Importance of a Good Sleep
There’s a lot we do that can interfere with our ability to achieve a good night’s sleep, and the inability to do so can cause big problems if it goes on for too long. Our bodies need sleep to recover after a day’s activity and to prepare themselves for the following day. The reason why we need to sleep for this to happen is that during this time all of our muscles are able to relax, and make use of the human growth hormone that is released during deep sleep to recuperate.
The REM stage of sleep is also crucial to mental wellbeing, as this is the time where our brains have the ability to organize all of the information they have collated, decide what is important, and store it away for future reference.
Things That Interrupt Sleep
Despite it being so important, sleep can be easily interrupted- usually because of lifestyle choices. You must, of course, sleep in comfortable conditions with a supportive mattress, fluffy pillows, and at a reasonable temperature. Diet also has a big impact, with the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or large meals within an hour before going to bed being proven to keep your mind more active and, therefore, less able to drift off.
Also, the use of gadgets, in particular devices with screens, can increase activity in your brain and mean that it takes longer for you to relax to a state where you can sleep. The final main influencers are to do with your overall lifestyle. If you are stressed or anxious for whatever reason, then the constant thoughts running through your brain can make it very difficult to sleep when you want to.
How Does Sleep and Relaxation Meditation Help With This?
Some of the factors will need to be confronted separately, such as the comfort of your bed and the consumption of alcohol, but the other factors can all be helped with the right form of meditation. Most causes of sleep difficulties come from your brain or body being overactive because of too much stimulation, and meditating before sleep will help calm and relax you.
This is particularly effective for stress and anxiety, but also helps to prepare your muscles for a rest. It can also help you go to sleep when you aren’t tired, so it can be very useful when you aren’t able to keep to a regular routine.
Examples of Relaxation Meditation for Sleep
There are as many different meditation techniques as there are people who meditate, so you should take all suggestions as a starting point and hone the method to your precise needs. The basic principles are what you should focus on, as they are what will create a sense of calm and serenity.
The following three techniques are all ones that will help to relax and prepare yourself for a deep sleep. Before starting, get yourself into a comfortable position with as few distractions around you as is possible.
Guided meditation is when you listen to an audio recording that takes you step by step through the different stages. It’s really good for beginners, because you can simply close your eyes and follow the instructions as they are read out to you.
There’s a wide range of different guided meditation recordings available in stores, and plenty of free ones available online if you don’t want to pay for one. Research is critical here, though, because you want to ensure that you use a decent recording.
Find one with a voice that is calming to you, has top reviews from other customers who have tried it out, and if you are using a free recording you should listen to it while you are fully awake to ensure that there aren’t any unexpected sections to the recording that could interrupt you from your sleep, such as adverts at the end.
When you have chosen the recording you want to use and it’s time for bed, you should take time to set up your audio equipment to ensure you can hear it clearly, but also so it isn’t too loud. It is not a good idea to use headphones because they can be uncomfortable or get tangled while you sleep, and you should set your stereo to automatically switch off after playback has finished (after all, as long as everything goes to plan you won’t be awake to turn it off yourself).
Once you’re all set up, you’re ready to go to bed. There’s no point in this if your bed is uncomfortable or the temperature in the room isn’t to your liking, so make sure the entire environment will encourage you to feel great and able to fully concentrate on the recording.
The video below is an example of a peaceful recording that can be found for free online:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If an audio recording isn’t working for you, or you simply want to take more control over the direction you take with your meditation, then progressive muscle relaxation could be worth exploring. It is a method of meditation that involves tensing and relaxing your various muscle groups in a way that encourages the full awareness of your entire body, and instills a calm and relaxing sensation.
This technique can be used whenever you like to promote relaxation, but is particularly good at helping you go to sleep at the end of the day. In all, this technique shouldn’t take any longer than 15 minutes.
Start by lying down in your bed as comfortable as possible. Dim the lights, turn your phone over so it doesn’t shine out, and snuggle into your pillows and sheets so your full body is being supported and you can fully focus on your meditation.
Shut your eyes and take a few deep, controlled, and regular breaths. Focus on what you are doing and let your mind clear itself of other thoughts. Concentrate on your body and be ready to allow it to fully relax.
Now, starting at your head and moving down (in the order explained in a moment), you will tense each of your muscles to a point where you feel it, but it doesn’t hurt. Hold this for five seconds, relax for ten seconds, and then move on to the next group. The groups to work on, and the order, are as follows:
- Top Of Your Head – Tense and release your forehead, feel it around your ears, and raise your eyebrows before relaxing
- Mid-Face – Squint your eyes and screw up your nose
- Lower Face – Force a big yawn and then grin widely so your mouth is stretched in all directions
- Hands – Form a fist and hold them tightly, then relax and stretch your hands out
- Forearms – Push your hands up like you are lifting a weight, let your arms straighten and stretch them out
- Upper Arm – Tense the muscles in your upper arm and then relax
- Shoulders – Shrug your shoulders, but hold them up until you feel the tenseness
- Back – Carefully arch your back so your body raises up. You should feel this all the way down, hold it for five seconds, and then release
- Core – Tense the muscles around your stomach and then release
- Thighs – Flex and tense the muscle groups in your upper legs
- Calves – Now tense and flex the muscles in your lower legs
- Feet – Stretch your toes out, roll your ankles, then curl your toes as tight as you can
Once you have gone through every muscle group you should return to the ones that still feel tense and repeat the process. It’s important that every time you tense a muscle for five seconds you really focus on relaxing them for ten seconds afterwards before moving on. You may need to repeat some groups for 3 or 4 times before they start feeling calm.
When this whole process has been done properly you will feel incredibly relaxed, and will soon fall asleep. If you don’t, you can repeat these steps as often as needed before you do. This is a really effective meditation for deep sleep and has the added benefit of allowing you to wake up with all of your muscles feeling much fresher and flexible than they would otherwise.
Mindfulness meditation is all about concentrating on your thoughts and feelings, which leads to an overall sense of relaxation. Before starting this you should be aware that the focus here should be on the sensations of the moment, without thinking too much about the individual thoughts because you don’t want them to take over. They should pass, be noted, and allowed to move on to make room for other thoughts to come to mind.
To start, like with the other methods, you should ensure that your bed is perfectly comfortable and lie on your back with your eyes closed. Now take 5 deep, controlled breaths through your nose and out through your mouth. Concentrate on the way these breaths feel, and feel the air as it fills your lungs. As the air leaves your body think about everything that’s happened that day going out with it.
Now it’s time to focus on your mental processes, so let you thoughts come to the fore and be aware of how you are feeling in your mind. This step should last for as long as it needs to- make sure you give enough time for all of the thoughts to come forward. Don’t try to think through fixing any problems, though, as this is something that can be left to do the following day.
Once you are feeling calmer in your mind you can move your focus onto your physical body. How are you feeling? Think about how comfortable you are on the bed and everything else you are aware of in the room like lights and sounds. If any muscles feel uncomfortable, tense them for five seconds, release them, and then hold them in a relaxed state for ten seconds. You can keep doing this for as long as needed before you feel like you’re floating on your bed.
Return now to thinking about the breaths, and take another five in a particularly controlled way. As you do so, think about the day that has just gone by- both the good and the bad. Let all memories flow past but, as before, don’t try to overthink about any of them, just let them pass.
After you have thought through the day’s events, think again about your physical body and how your muscles and breathing feel. You can now allow your body to turn itself off, starting at the feet, and let this sleeping sensation raise up along your legs, torso, your arms, neck, face, and then head.
The Final Word
While sleep is really important, and some days all you want to do is drift off, it’s not always possible because you are feeling too tense or stressed after a tough day.
Rather than falling into the pitfalls that can cause poor sleep in the ways many people do (like drinking alcohol), sleep meditation can be an effective way to calm yourself down both physically and mentally, and prepare yourself for a relaxing and rejuvenating night’s sleep. There are a number of different methods that can help you to do this, and after a bit of experimentation you’ll be sure to find one that works well for you.