By Faye Martins
Can meditation help those who suffer with sleep disorders? Yes, and there are many types of meditation for sleeplessness. Insomnia is a terrible affliction that can only be truly understood by those who have experienced it. What could be more frustrating than being completely and utterly exhausted yet unable to fall asleep? Of course, medications are often effective and allow those with insomnia to fall asleep and stay asleep However, the side effects can be unpleasant. Consequently, the underlying cause of insomnia is only masked by medicines. Indeed, the best solution for sleep deprivation is to address the root of the issue.
Causes of Insomnia
Sometimes people who experience insomnia have it in combination with other physical or mental issues, and in order to treat their insomnia, the other condition must be addressed. The correction of the main issue usually results in the insomnia being corrected automatically with no further intervention needed. However, in other individuals, their insomnia is present without any other physical or mental conditions. This variety of insomnia is called primary insomnia and it is often a lifelong affliction.
Hyper Arousal of the Mind
Scientists now believe that the trigger for primary insomnia is chronic hyper arousal of the mind. Patients with sleep disorders deal with a mind that’s overly active, constantly moving from one thought pattern to another all day and night. These overly active minds don’t know how to slow down, even when fatigued. When someone has insomnia, there is a lot of pressure to drift off to sleep, and pressure only makes it worse. This is where meditation comes in. Practicing meditation during the waking hours teaches these hyper aroused minds how to relax in a setting that is devoid of any expectation. If relaxation and mindfulness occur, this is excellent. If the hyper arousal continues, that’s simply to be accepted. There is no pressure. All varieties of meditation are effective for daytime practice, and yield great benefits for an overly active mind.
Science of Sleeping
Obviously, there are a variety of sleep disorders that can affect people of all ages. The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, which is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Other sleep disorders include sleep apnea (a condition where you stop breathing for short periods during sleep), restless leg syndrome (a condition where you have an irresistible urge to move your legs while sleeping), and narcolepsy (a condition where you fall asleep suddenly and unexpectedly). Therefore, meditation can be an effective treatment for sleep disorders. As a result, meditation works by calming the mind and body, which makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Coping with Worry
Unfortunately, there are so many reasons for us to worry. If you’re struggling with anxiety or sleep disorders, meditation can be a helpful coping mechanism. After all, one of the main benefits of meditation is that it helps to clear your mind and ease worries. When you’re anxious, your mind is racing and it can be difficult to calm down. Meditation allows you to focus on your breath and let go of intrusive thoughts. If you’re having trouble sleeping, meditation can also help by relaxing your body and mind. There are many different types of meditation, so experiment to find what works best for you.
Yoga Preparation Before Sleep
There are a few things you can do to prepare for sleep if you have a sleep disorder. One is to practice Yoga poses and breathing before bed. Yoga helps to relax the body and mind, and it can also be helpful in easing anxiety and promoting better sleep. Another thing you can do is to meditate before and during bedtime. Meditation can help to quiet the mind, which can be helpful if you have trouble sleeping due to racing thoughts.
Stages of Healthy Sleep
Most people don’t know that there is a science to sleep. For example, the average person sleeps for 7-8 hours per night, but there are different stages of sleep. The first stage is when you are falling asleep and your body is preparing for sleep. The second stage is when you are in a deep sleep and your body is repairing itself. The third stage is when you are in REM sleep and your brain is active. Additionally, if you have a sleep disorder, it can be difficult to get through all of the stages of sleep.
Variety of Methods
Once the foundation of meditation has been created during the day, meditation may be used in order to drift off to sleep at night. There are a variety of different methods for insomniacs to use depending on how their mind works. If the mind is creating visual distractions, use them as part of your meditative practice. Practice making the scenery go from light to dark, and try to make the mental scenes slow down – the slower the better. By regaining control over the mind, a calm mental state may be achieved. If the primary mental distraction is inner dialog, focus on changing the pitch and tone of the ‘voice’, making it slower and deeper. This takes some practice but it’s very worthwhile because when the inner dialog sounds deep and slow it automatically makes the individual more likely to sleep.
Breath Awareness Meditation
Another excellent meditation for insomnia is to lay down and perform breath awareness meditation, focusing specifically on the stomach. Breathe in and notice how the stomach expands with the action. Breathe out and feel the stomach fall as the air leaves the body. Take care not to focus on any points other than the stomach since other areas such as the crown of the head are typically energizing in nature. The stomach is the area of the body that is strongly associated with grounding and stability, and this promotes states of tranquility and rest. Meditation is a valuable practice for those with sleep disorders because it allows them to regain a sense of control and power over their situation. By disrupting the flow of the hyper-focused mind, restful sleep may be achieved on a regular basis, and quality sleep provides the foundation for all other aspects of life.
Yoga Nidra for Sleep
Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep,” is a type of meditation that can be helpful for those suffering from sleep disorders. The practice involves lying in a comfortable position and focusing on the breath. The goal is to achieve a state of complete relaxation, both physically and mentally. Yoga Nidra has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia and other sleep disorders. It can help to improve sleep quality and quantity, as well as reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Mantra Meditation for Sleep
Mantra meditation can be an effective way to help treat sleep disorders. The goal of mantra meditation is to focus your attention on a certain sound or phrase, which can help to quiet your mind and allow you to drift off to sleep. There are many different mantras that you can use for this type of meditation, so it’s important to find one that resonates with you. Once you have your mantra, you can begin the meditation by sitting in a comfortable position and repeating the mantra to yourself. You may want to focus on your breath as well, and breathe in and out slowly as you repeat the mantra.
Meditation for States of Gratitude
There are many different types of meditation, but one of the most effective for promoting sleep is gratitude meditation. In gratitude meditation, you focus on all the things in your life that you are grateful for. This can help to shift your focus from negative thoughts that may be keeping you awake to positive ones that can promote relaxation and sleep. Try spending 10-15 minutes each night before bed practicing gratitude meditation and see if it makes a difference in your sleep patterns.
How to Cultivate Gratitude
One way to cultivate gratitude is to meditate on what you’re grateful for. When you focus on the positive things in your life, you’ll start to see more and more reasons to be grateful. You can also keep a gratitude journal where you write down things that you’re grateful for each day. As you look back on your entries, you’ll see how much good there is in your life. Another way to cultivate gratitude is to perform acts of kindness for others. When you make someone else’s life better, you’ll feel good about yourself and be more likely to appreciate what you have.
Meditation can also be a practical strategy for people with sleep disorders. Mindfulness meditation in particular can help people fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also help people feel more rested during the day. To practice mindfulness meditation, find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice the sensations of your breath as you inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
Do you want to become a mindfulness meditation teacher?
See our selection of Yoga instructor courses and continuing education courses; please visit the following link.
Click here to see our online Yoga Nidra teacher training course.
Are you an experienced teacher looking for YACEP credits or continuing education?
Are you considering how to become a yoga instructor? See our selection of affordable meditation and teacher certification courses.
52 Essential Principles of Yoga Philosophy to Deepen your Practice
by Rina Jakubowicz
A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance
by: Gail Boorstein Grossman
by B.K.S. Iyengar
By Mark Stephens
See our selection of our intensive Yoga teacher training courses.
Ancoli-Israel S, Ayalon L. Diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in older adults. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006;14(2):95-103.
Crowley K. Sleep and sleep disorders in older adults. Neuropsychol Rev. 2011;21(1):41-53.
Foley D, Ancoli-Israel S, Britz P, Walsh J. Sleep disturbances and chronic disease in older adults: results of the 2003 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Survey. J Psychosom Res. 2004;56(5):497-502.
Prinz PN. Sleep and sleep disorders in older adults. J Clin Neurophysiol. 1995;12(2):139-146.
Van Cauter E, Leproult R, Plat L. Age-related changes in slow wave sleep and REM sleep and relationship with growth hormone and cortisol levels in healthy men. JAMA. 2000;284(7):861-868.
Benca RM. Sleep in psychiatric disorders. Neurol Clin. 1996;14(4):739-764.
Morphy H, Dunn KM, Lewis M, Boardman HF, Croft PR. Epidemiology of insomnia: a longitudinal study in a UK population. Sleep. 2007;30(3):274-280.
Vitiello MV. Sleep disorders and aging. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 1996;9(4):284-289.
Morin CM, Colecchi C, Stone J, Sood R, Brink D. Behavioral and pharmacological therapies for late-life insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1999;281(11):991-999.
Montgomery P, Dennis J. Cognitive behavioural interventions for sleep problems in adults aged 60+. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(2):CD003161.
Morin CM, Bootzin RR, Buysse DJ, Edinger JD, Espie CA, Lichstein KL. Psychological and behavioral treatment of insomnia: update of the recent evidence (1998-2004). Sleep. 2006;29(11):1398-1414.
Gross CR, Kreitzer MJ, Reilly-Spong M, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction versus pharmacotherapy for chronic primary insomnia: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Explore (NY). 2011;7(2):76-87.
Hubbling A, Reilly-Spong M, Kreitzer MJ, Gross CR. How mindfulness changed my sleep: focus groups with chronic insomnia patients. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14(1):50.
Winbush NY, Gross CR, Kreitzer MJ. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on sleep disturbance: a systematic review. Explore (NY). 2007;3(6):585-591.
Andersen SR, Würtzen H, Steding-Jessen M, et al. Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on sleep quality: results of a randomized trial among Danish breast cancer patients. Acta Oncol. 2013;52(2):336-344.
Ong JC, Shapiro SL, Manber R. Mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia: a naturalistic 12-month follow-up. Explore (NY). 2009;5(1):30-36.
Irwin MR, Olmstead R, Motivala SJ. Improving sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints: a randomized controlled trial of tai chi chih. Sleep. 2008;31(7):1001-1008.
Irwin MR, Wang M, Campomayor CO, Collado-Hidalgo A, Cole S. Sleep deprivation and activation of morning levels of cellular and genomic markers of inflammation. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(16):1756-1762.