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How Does Meditation Affect Sleep?

How Does Meditation Affect Sleep?

Meditation is a powerful tool that can help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms. This holistic practice can help you relax your mind and body and reduce stress and anxiety, which can interfere with sleep quality.

Learn the basics of meditation and how to use sleep meditation tools, such as guided meditation for sleep and meditation music for sleep, to improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.

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What is Meditation?

Meditation is a practice that has been used for thousands of years to promote relaxation, focus, and self-awareness. It involves getting into a comfortable position and focusing your attention on your breath or a specific word or phrase, known as a mantra. The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and achieve a state of calm and inner peace.

Types of Meditation

Because meditation can put you in a deep state of relaxation, it may be beneficial for improving sleep. There are numerous meditation styles, including mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, tai chi qigong, and yoga. Each technique involves different relaxation methods, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mental focus.

  • Mindfulness Meditation. This practice involves focusing on the present moment without judgment using techniques such as a full body scan, diaphragmatic breathing, and repeating positive affirmations. A 2015 study suggests that mindfulness meditation can improve sleep quality and reduce daytime fatigue in adults with sleep disturbances like insomnia.
  • Guided Meditation. Guided meditation involves listening to an audio recording or a person’s voice that directs your thoughts, helps you adjust your breathing, and leads you on a visual journey to elicit relaxation. A 2020 study found that guided imagery and breathing relaxation improved sleep quality in elderly patients.
  • Tai Chi and Qigong. These practices are used in traditional Chinese medicine and use mental focus, slow movements, and deep breathing to improve energy flow within the body. A 2016 randomized controlled trial confirmed that qigong improved nighttime sleep quality in adults with cognitive impairment, improving their quality of life and decreasing stress and depression.
  • Yoga. Yoga is a practice that incorporates mindfulness, controlled breathing, and stretching-based poses. Yoga can reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and manage insomnia related to stress or chronic health conditions. A 2022 study that looked at the effect of yoga on insomnia found that participants who performed 1 hour of yoga per day and 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra once per week experienced improved sleep quality.

    Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is another type of yoga that induces a sleep-like state. The goal of Yoga Nidra is to reach a state of consciousness similar to the brain waves that occur during sleep while still retaining some level of awareness. This is typically achieved through guided body awareness and progressive relaxation.

How Does Meditation Affect Sleep?

Meditation targets physical and mental barriers to sleep, from intrusive thoughts and anxiety to pain and stress.

  • Initiates the Relaxation Response. Meditation can improve sleep by initiating the relaxation response. The relaxation response is the opposite of the “fight or flight” response, which involves increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

    Meditation techniques, such as deep breathing and mindfulness, are designed to trigger the relaxation response, which can reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, and slow brain waves. These physiological changes are associated with improved sleep quality.
  • Reduces Stress Hormones. Meditation has been found to reduce stress hormone levels in the body, specifically cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress and is known to negatively impact sleep. High cortisol levels at night can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Improves Pain Management. Pain can be a major cause of sleep disturbance, and individuals who experience chronic pain often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. A 2016 study found that meditation can reduce pain or at least make it more manageable, which can help improve sleep quality.
  • Decreases Intrusive Thoughts. Meditation can also help to improve sleep by reducing the number of sleep-disrupting thoughts people have at night. These thoughts include rumination about past events, worrying about future events, and negative self-talk.

    By practicing mental techniques during meditation, individuals may be better able to manage their thoughts and emotions, which can reduce the number of negative thoughts at night.

Health Benefits of Meditation

For several decades, studies have consistently shown multiple health benefits associated with meditation. A nationally representative survey released in 2016 found that 63.6% of people who reported meditating said it helped them with general wellness, energy, focus, and stress relief.

The most widely reported health benefits of meditation include:

What to Expect After Meditating

After meditating, you might experience a sense of calm and relaxation due to a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This can help you feel more focused, less stressed, and more present awareness.

However, you may also experience a few uncomfortable side effects after meditation, especially if you are just beginning or have underlying emotional or psychological issues. Possible after-effects can include:

  • Feelings of anxiety or emotional distress
  • Physical discomfort, such as headache or muscle tension
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Unpleasant memories or past experiences

Side effects are often temporary and can be reduced or eliminated with regular practice and guidance from a teacher or therapist. Preparing yourself for what to expect and having realistic expectations can help you minimize the risk of an uncomfortable reaction.

How to Meditate Before Bed

Meditation Music

Listen to relaxing meditation music to calm your mind and help you drift off to sleep. You can find sleep music videos that play tranquil melodies and use natural sounds to put your mind at ease. Alternatively, you can listen to binaural beats, which play different sound frequencies that elicit delta brain wave activity, the slowest brain waves associated with restorative sleep.

Guided Sleep Meditation

Guided sleep meditations use music and voice to draw you into a comfortable, calm state for quality sleep. Many guided sleep meditations are available through smartphone apps such as Calm, Aura, and Zen. You can download one of these apps and choose from a library of sleep journey meditations that help you relax and sleep.

Mindfulness Sleep Meditation

Performing a simple mindfulness meditation before bed can help you fall asleep quicker and improve the quality of your sleep. You can do this meditation without the help of an electronic device, making it an ideal exercise just before hopping into bed at night.

To perform a mindfulness sleep meditation, take the following steps:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  2. Get into a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
  3. Focus on your breath, inhaling and exhaling deeply, slowly, and calmly.
  4. Let your mind wander, and gently bring your focus back to your breath if your thoughts drift.
  5. Meditate for 5-15 minutes or however long you feel comfortable.
  6. When finished, slowly open your eyes and stretch before getting into bed.
  7. Lay down, release any thoughts or worries, and allow your mind and body to relax as you fall asleep.

Support Your Sleep Health With Ingredient For Health

Starting a daily meditation routine can have a positive effect on your sleep. Regular practice can improve sleep quality and help you fall asleep more quickly. Meditation can also help reduce stress and anxiety, so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep health.

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