Is sleep meditation the hack you need to get more rest?

Ever struggle to fall asleep? Incorporating sleep meditation into your bedtime routine could be all you need to nod off faster and get restorative rest.

It’s no secret that modern life is lived in fast forward.

So, when it comes to slowing down at the end of the day, it’s no wonder sleep is something that evades many of us.

Incorporating sleep meditation into your nightly routine might be the simple hack you’ve been dreaming of, to help you settle in for a good night’s shut-eye.

What is sleep meditation?

According to meditation teacher and Melbourne Meditation Centre director Matthew Young, sleep meditation is a form of meditation that is designed specifically to get you to sleep, calming the mind and body before bed so you can wind down and transition to slumber.

Combining mindfulness, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, visualisation and other strategies, sleep meditation can help you tap into the body’s natural capacity to sleep, Matthew says.

How does it differ from regular meditation?

While regular meditation is often used to help cultivate mindfulness, reduce anxiety, or bring a sense of calm and insight into our waking lives, sleep meditation is designed to lull the mind and body into rest.

What is the best type of meditation for sleep?

The best type of meditation for sleep is what works for you, there is no “gold standard”, Matthew says.

“Meditation, in my view and experience, is all about finding the kind of mindset, an approach and technique, that actually works for you,” he says.

“Sometimes that requires a little bit of experimentation, you may have to try a few different things, and it can change over time too.”

Can sleep meditation help you fall asleep faster?

Sleep meditation helps create the optimal conditions for sleep to occur, so sleep naturally comes faster when the mind and body are properly prepped, Matthew says.

“It’s kind of like how a plant grows better in a greenhouse, or in a climate it’s endemic to, as opposed to being planted to a backyard where the climate is vastly different to what it’s native to,” he explains.

Can it help with insomnia?

Sleep meditation can be amazingly effective for insomnia, Matthew says.

“There (are) comments from people who have had insomnia for years, or even decades, who say, ‘I never heard the end of that meditation’,” he says.

What are the benefits of sleep meditation?

Meditation has huge benefits, especially just before bed, sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo says.

“The act of meditation encourages theta brain waves, which help us feel more calm and ready for sleep,” Olivia says.

“It can also increase melatonin, our sleep-promoting hormone, and reduce cortisol, a hormone that often wakes us up at 3am.”

She says those who keep up the habit can enjoy deeper sleep.

“Long-term meditators spend three times more time in deep, slow-wave sleep compared to non-meditators,” Olivia explains.

They are also shown to have an increased capacity to focus and pay attention, she adds.

How long do you need to meditate for?

Ideally, people should aim for around 20 minutes, but a 10-minute meditation is a great place to start, Olivia says.

However, Matthew says sleep meditation can be incredibly effective after only a few minutes. “Sleep can happen very, very quickly,” he says.

“If you’re going to bed when you’re tired, when you’re sleepy, you can fall asleep within the space of five minutes.”

How to start meditating for sleep

For a quick, no-frills introduction to sleep meditation, Olivia suggests downloading an app that offers meditations specifically for sleep.

“Guided meditation is best for beginners,” she explains.

But if you’d like to give it a go yourself, here are the steps to get started:

  1. Get into a comfortable position, ideally in bed.
  2. Close your eyes or soften your gaze and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Observe your breath — the rhythm and feeling of breathing.
  4. If your mind wanders, observe your thoughts and gently come back to your breath.
  5. Scan your body head to toe and soften any tension, allowing yourself to sink into relaxation.

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Written by Sarah Vercoe.