Let us guess.
You’re lying in bed, looking at your phone, hoping to just find some sort of answer to why you can’t fall asleep.
Or, maybe that was you last night. Maybe you’re sitting slumped over at your desk, wishing you were in bed right now, half-scared you won’t be able to sleep again tonight, once you actually do make it to bed.
Whichever spot you find yourself in, you’re in luck. Meditation can help with sleep and we’re here to show you how. Let’s get started, shall we?
Can’t Fall Asleep? You’re Not Alone
According to the Sleep Foundation, insomnia impacts as many as 35% of adults, up to 23.8% of teens and nearly half of all the elderly. That’s a lot of people! Insomnia refers to a condition that makes it routinely difficult for you to get to sleep, stay asleep and/or sleep as long as you would like.
Unfortunately, while that doesn’t seem so dangerous at first glance, insomnia can actually have very real, serious consequences. It puts you at risk for a wide array of health issues, but, in the short term, also makes it more likely for you to experience daytime sleepiness that can put you at risk for accidents.
Insomnia can stem from a wide array of factors, which makes it all that much harder to cure. Your insomnia could be stemming from a physical illness, mental illness, day-to-day bad habits, stress, circadian rhythm disruptions, jet lag, medications — the list goes on and on.
Thankfully, the Sleep Foundation also says that meditation can help with insomnia, and meditation is one thing that we know a lot about. The Foundation notes that research says that meditation can help not only improve insomnia in adults, but also improve overall sleep quality for those who do not suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues.
Mindfulness meditation is particularly helpful for those with chronic insomnia or the elderly who suffer from insomnia. In fact, the improvements seen by those who practice mindfulness meditation to treat sleep issues are so remarkable that they’ve been compared to the effects patients have seen through treating their insomnia via medications.
So, what are you waiting for? You have absolutely nothing to lose when it comes to trying meditation as a treatment for your insomnia, and only so many sweet, sweet hours of sleep to gain.
Meditation for Sleep
Like other forms of meditation, meditation for sleep is intended to help you step away from some of those anxious or worried thoughts that can really prevent you from falling and staying asleep. Meditation for sleep helps by grounding you and guiding you to focus on the present moment.
Unlike other forms of meditation, meditation for sleep isn’t usually done sitting cross-legged on your yoga mat. Instead, meditation for sleep often occurs in your bed, in the dark (or however you like to sleep), lying down. The end result should be that you, yes, fall asleep — and then stay asleep.
Is it difficult? Not any more so than any other type of meditation. It might take a little extra practice to get the hang of, but once you’ve figured it out, you’ll find that it’s a truly valuable tool to help you fall asleeep.
4 Meditation Techniques to Help You Fall Asleep
Here are four meditation techniques you can try right now to help you fall asleep and stay asleep:
Guided body scans
Let's dive in.
1. Breathing exercises for sleep
Breathing exercises can help you ground your body and help you to calm down. As you focus on the simple act of breathing, you’ll notice that your stress levels decrease (as does your heart rate) and that your anxiety decreases, too (this is why so many therapists recommend breathing exercises for patients who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks).
To get started, try this diaphragmatic breathing exercise:
1. Lie comfortably down on your bed with your knees bent. Place one of your pillows under your head and one or two pillows under your knees.
2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your belly. Breathe in through your nose and become aware of your breathing, drawing it down to your stomach.
3. Feel how the hand on the belly is rising with the breath, while the hand on your chest remains still. Slowly exhale. And again feel the hand of your belly move, while the other one remains still.
2. Guided body scans to fall asleep
A guided body scan is also a meditation technique that you can use while lying in bed — or anywhere you happen to be. A body scan sleep meditation should almost feel like you're physically turning your body off for the night. If you througout the body scan start to feel yourself get calmer, your breaths slower, muscles relaxing - perhaps even feeling yourself drift into a state of sleepiness - then you know you're doing it right.
Here’s how to do an easy body scan:
1. Lay down on you back. Gently try to slow your inhales and exhales down a bit, without deepening the breath to the extent that you feel like it takes effort - it should feel easy and natural. Start by scanning the body for sensations; it could for example be vibrations, a tingling feeeling, heaviness, temperature, or pressure.
2. After a minute or two of calming down and just checking in with yourself, you will turn the focus to your body. Start at the top of your head, relaxing your face, then your neck, and shoulders. The feeling of one of your body parts relaxing is your cue to move on down to the next one. This means you will eventually reach your thighs, calves, and finally you will relax your toes.
3. At this point you may feel like you'ree starting to drift into sleep. If thoughts keep on disrupting you, you may want to try starting over again, but this this time starting from your toes, slowly moving up towards your head.
3. Visualisation techniques for getting to sleep
Visualisation is a bit similar to hypnosis, but don't worry, beginners — it’s not nearly as intense. Often, a visualisation meditation will ask you to focus on a particular positive feeling, such as gratitude or love, and then visualise an image or scene related to that feeling.
A common technique is "guided imagery" - here’s how you can try it for yourself:
1. Make yourself comfortable and slow your breath down into a relaxing rhythm. Then start to visualise a place where you know you feel calm and at peace. Maybe it's a place you've visited once, or maybe it's your go-to spot. It could also be somewhere you plan on going in the future. Or maybe it's a place that only exists in your mind.
2. Ask yourself, and use your senses to answer. What can you see? What do you hear? What does it smell like? How does it feel? Maybe you find yourself sitting in a green meadow on a late summer's afternoon. You hear birds singing and smell flowers blooming. Maybe there's a breeze, leaving a chilly feeling on your skin.
3. As you imagine yourself in the location, feel yourself get calmer and more at peace. With every breath, feel how you inhale more calm, and notice the lightness your exhale leaves you with. Visualise how feelings of tension and stress leave your body. When you feel ready, let go of the vision and just relax.
4. Sleep mantras to beat insomnia
A sleep mantra can help you to relax and let go of stress and tension, and even strengthen your self-confidence. But what does a mantra really mean? A mantra is a set of words that you recite to yourself, which can help guide your thoughts and make it easier for you to fall asleep. Your unconscious mind will also snap up these positive words, helping you to release whathever it is that's holding you back.
How to get started with sleep mantras:
You can choose mantra that is personal to you, but keep in mind that it should be:
... short and clear enough to repeat multiple times without having to think too much
... positive, reassuring, and calming - in other words - make you feel good
... have a nice flow or rhythm to it, making it easy to remember
Examples of mantras that you may want to use are:
"I am released from stress and worry, I am ready to sleep"
"I am calm and relaxed, I am at peace"
"I am grateful, I am relaxed, I am safe"
"I let go of today, I welcome sleep"
Many people find it easier to listen to a guided sleep mantra, to keep focus, instead of only reciting it by themself. In the Flow app, you find a particularly strong sleep mantra, featuring calming music and nature, that might just be what you need to fall asleep tonight. Find the link to download the app at the bottom of the post.
Need a Little Extra Help?
We know that these types of exercises aren’t exactly comfortable the first time you do them. You might feel awkward. You may not enjoy them. You may get even more restless because you’re worried you’re not doing them correctly. Maybe it’s just easier to give up and go watch Netflix.
But, if you need a little more help, we have just the thing. Flow now offers a simple guided meditation to help you fall asleep, fast. "Preparing for sleep" which you can find within the Flow app, incorporates soothing music by Joel Shearer and expert guidance from Flow founder Tristan Elizabeth Gribbin. The guided meditation will lead you into a deep meditative state, conducive to falling asleep. You can even use the session builder within the Flow app to repeat the meditation automatically, several times, so you can meditate as long as you need to… though hopefully you’ll be asleep within minutes!