Meditation has been practised worldwide for centuries and remains popular due to its many benefits and easy accessibility. Meditation involves increasing awareness and encouraging relaxation, which can be advantageous for the mind and body.
It is estimated that 36% of UK adults struggle to fall asleep every week, and almost 50% have trouble getting to sleep at least once a month. For this reason, many are turning to sleep meditation as a method to help them relax and improve sleep quality. Keep reading to find out the origins of meditation and how it can benefit your sleep.
Origins Of Meditation
Before meditation became mainstream, it was almost exclusively practised amongst various religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. There is a lot of debate surrounding the origins of meditation, but it is believed that practising meditation dates back to 5000BC and is associated with Ancient China and Egypt. Although, there have been records that date back even earlier, mainly within China and India.
The oldest documented text describing meditation traces back to 1500BC and originates from India with Hindu traditions. Meditation also has strong ties with Buddism, when meditation was and still continues to be practised for various reasons. This includes self-improvement, mindfulness, contemplation and breath control.
It wasn't until around the 1700s that meditation found its way to Western society, although it was primarily used as a topic of discussion by intellectuals and philosophers. As time went on, meditation became more westernised and less associated with its religious origins. Nowadays, anyone can access and practice meditation techniques, no matter where you are in the world.
Meditation For Sleeping
If you have problems relaxing before bed, sleep meditation can help you disconnect and clear your mind. It is estimated that one in three people in the UK are affected by insomnia, often caused by stress and anxiety. For this reason, sleep meditation can help you de-stress and eliminate negative thoughts that could keep you awake.
You can take several steps if you want to practice effective sleep meditation. Firstly, you should make sure you are in a comfortable environment with no distractions, such as mobile phones or televisions. As this is sleep meditation, it's also recommended to lay down; however, you can also take a sitting position if it's more comfortable. While meditating, try relaxing every part of your body and focus on your breathing.
If you need extra guidance and help while meditating, there are plenty of free online resources to choose from, including videos, podcasts and apps. These often involve an individual guiding you through the various steps of meditation and reminding you to focus on breathing and relaxation.
Sleep Meditation Tips
It can be challenging for those starting out with meditation to adjust to the techniques required to get the most out of the practice. For some, the stillness and control may be difficult to get used to; however, here are some tips to help you get all the benefits from practising meditation.
- Breathe: One of the main features of meditation is controlling your breath. While it is advised to try to breathe naturally, you can practice deep breathing as you start to relax. This can involve slowly inhaling through the nose, holding for a couple of seconds, then exhaling through the mouth.
- Environment: To relax, you should find an environment that makes you feel comfortable and calm. While a relaxing environment could be different for everybody, you should avoid any disruptive distractions, such as loud noises, harsh lighting and phones or gadgets.
- Position: There are several different meditation positions, and it’s essential that you find the most comfortable position for you. Seated meditation positions could involve sitting on the floor, chair, sofa, or cushion. You can also lay down or practice standing meditation - ideal for those who spend a lot of time sitting.
- Routine: While it may not be possible to meditate at the same time every day, it could help with your practice. Choosing a time to meditate each day can help you establish a routine and keep up the practice. It’s also recommended to practise meditation at a time when the mind is calmer to help you disconnect.
- Relax: A big part of meditation is learning how to relax, de-stress and eliminate unwanted thoughts. To help your mind and body relax, you should consider all the previous points; control the breath, find a comfortable position and environment, and try to focus on releasing any tension from the body.
Benefits Of Sleep Meditation
While meditation may not be suited for everybody, there are several benefits you could gain from practising meditation before bed. However, it's worth noting that these benefits can differ depending on the individual.
- Improve Sleep: Calming the mind before bed can help you relax and fall asleep. In a study✓ involving 1654 participants, the researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation could effectively treat aspects of sleep disturbances and improve sleep quality.
- Stress Relief: Stress can affect all of us and often cause us to lose sleep or lay awake at night. By learning to control your breathing and relax, you can relieve stress and disconnect from unwanted thoughts and feelings. Research✓ has shown that regular meditation can help people change how they react to stress and help them recover more easily from stressful situations.
- Reduce Anxiety: In a survey conducted by the charity Anxiety UK, out of the 1200 responses, 81.8% stated that they suffered poor sleep due to general anxiety. Research✓ has found that practising mindfulness can be effective at improving anxiety and mood problems. This could be due to the calming effect of mindfulness meditation and learning to eliminate negative thoughts.
- Pain Management: While stress and anxiety are often to blame for keeping us awake, pain and injuries can also cause you to lose sleep. Studies✓ have found that mindfulness or meditation can significantly improve pain severity, unpleasantness, and post-surgical pain.
Did you know?
Mindful meditation not only helps with stress and anxiety but may also help with ADHD. A study✓ involving 24 ADHD adults saw participants follow an 8-week mindfulness program, resulting in improvements in ADHD symptoms, anxiety, and depression.
When discussing meditation, the topic of mindfulness often enters the conversation. In short, mindfulness can be defined by staying present and in the moment rather than focusing on the distractions surrounding us.
Mindfulness could help you improve your sleep quality as it is associated with minimising stress. It is believed that mindfulness can reduce activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala, which is the part that reacts to stress. In addition, the increased awareness when engaging in mindfulness can help you change your perspective and the way you view stressful situations and consequences.
While mindfulness and meditation are connected, they are not necessarily the same. Meditation is a practice that often requires concentration and focus, controlling your breathing and calming the mind. In comparison, mindfulness is more a state of mind that requires being present and aware. Unlike meditation, mindfulness can be practised anywhere and anytime.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is sleep meditation?
Sleep meditation often involves practising meditation before bed to relax and clear the mind. It can be helpful for those who struggle to fall asleep or suffer from stress and anxiety.
How to do sleep meditation?
There are various ways you can practise meditation. However, for sleep meditation, it's recommended to lay down, focus on your breathing and try to relax the mind and body. Moreover, you should try to eliminate distractions such as mobile phones, harsh lighting and loud noises.
How does meditation improve sleep?
This can depend on the individual, but many believe that meditation has the ability to help you feel more relaxed. This can be useful for those who struggle to sleep due to stress.