Do you ever find yourself awake at night with your mind wandering?
If you want to fall asleep faster and sleep better, don’t learn about sleep. Instead, learn meditation!
That’s the conclusion of a recent USC study, which reinforced years of similar studies.
Getting Started with Meditation
Beyond sleep, meditation helps you relax, learn faster, remember more, show more compassion, and regulate your emotions.
The good news is, if you haven’t meditated before, it’s not hard to get started. Best yet, after 8 weeks of consistent practice, you should see significant results. In fact, if you were to scan your brain at this point, you would observe new pathways and a smaller amygdala (the area of your brain that triggers stress).
If you’re willing to give meditation a try, but just need some quick pointers, then read on!
10 Tips to Sleep Better With Meditation
Intentionally yawning triggers your brains to release tension and get sleepy.
2. Visualize the “color” of your breath.
Imagine your breath as colored air. Inhale green, exhale green. Then inhale blue, exhale blue. Keep going though whatever colors you enjoy visualizing.
If you want to try focusing on something else, you can concentrate on an image (like a green field), a one-sentence prayer, a phrase (“I am relaxed” or “I am grateful for _____”), or a sound (like “Ommm,” which you can vocalize if you chose). Whatever you choose, notice how it makes you feel. This exercise will help you focus on the present.
3. Smell essential oils.
Pick up a couple essential oils at the store. Put a few drops on your pillow and a couple drops on the sides of your head, then massage them into your temples.
4. Listen to calm music.
Allow your brain to focus on relaxing music for a half hour before bed. Ideally, the music will follow a similar pattern to slow breathing, which can help you enter a calm state.
If you use an iPhone with Spotify or YouTube, open the Clock app, select Timer, choose 30 minutes, tap “When Timer Ends”, then scroll down and choose “Stop Playing.” If you use an Android, try the Sleep Timer app.
5. Watch guided meditations.
There are hundreds of free meditation videos you can enjoy on YouTube. (Make sure to use the sleep timer described above to turn off your phone after 15-30 minutes.)
6. Relax your body from head to toe.
The US Navy developed a technique that enabled 96% of pilots to fall asleep in less than two minutes. To practice, tell each muscle in your body to relax and “sink” to your bed.
First, relax your face muscles, starting with your your eyebrows and moving down to your jaw and mouth. Next, lower your shoulders, then your arms, then your elbows, then your wrists and fingers. Breathe out and relax your chest. Lastly, relax your legs, then your knees, then your ankles and toes.
If your mind wanders, repeat to yourself for 10 seconds: “Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think.”
7. Count down from 100.
If you lose your place, return to 100 and continue. There’s no end goal, so losing your place doesn’t actually matter. The goal is simply to count.
8. Focus on your breath.
Breathing is important to meditation because it helps you “center” yourself and focus on the present. As you breathe in, focus on the sensation of your lungs filling with air. As you breathe out, imagine your thoughts and the day’s events releasing along with the air you exhale. If you feel thoughts rushing to your mind, take a moment to observe them, then allow them to pass by. You can attend to them tomorrow.
9. Develop your Ujjayi breath and try box breathing.
Have you heard yogi make audible, throaty breaths, reminiscent of lapping ocean waves? This is called Ujjayi. The trick is to pretend you’re whispering to someone and try breathing in a “whisper.” This contracts your throat and slows your breathing.
When you’re ready to try something new, you can also explore box breathing. Inhale for 4 counts. Hold for 2 counts. Exhale for 4 counts. Continue for 2-4 minutes or until you feel relaxed.
10. Optimize your sleep conditions.
Meditation can help you overcome less than ideal sleeping circumstances. Still, the best conditions can help you relax and sleep more easily.
You can find a pillow that matches your firmness preferences. If you’re sensitive to light, you can purchase blackout curtains. If you find yourself falling asleep on subways or car rides, then white noise might be a secret to helping you relax. If that’s the case, you can test out an inexpensive white noise machine.
Still Need Help Sleeping?
Along with exercise and nutrition, sleep is one of the three factors that you can easily regulate to give yourself the best energy and mental state to enjoy a fun and productive day.
If you meditate consistently for 4-8 weeks and still have trouble falling asleep, check out these proven tips to sleep better at night.
If you find yourself inadvertently staying up late on social media, watching videos, or lying awake with insomnia, then it’s worth making a commitment to try something on this list. While you won’t instantly become a meditation master, you’ll be making a change for the better in your life.