As a necessary biological function, you would think getting a good night’s sleep would be easy. However, many people struggle to get the full seven to eight hours needed to function at their best. Stress, chronic pain, and anxiety make sleep elusive for many people. Meditation has been used to calm the mind and body for decades, but we’re only now beginning to understand how it helps relieve the symptoms that may be keeping you awake at night. Regularly practicing meditation can help ease stress and chronic pain for a better, more restful night’s sleep.
Reduce Pain and Anxiety
Aches and pains keep many people, especially older adults, from getting the sleep they need. Studies have shown that meditation and its ability to keep the mind focused on the present reduces the amount of pain the brain anticipates. Less anticipation reduces the overall amount pain perceived.
Meditation also strengthens the brain’s connection between the logic and emotional centers. That gives you more control over your emotions. With logic in the lead, anxiety and depression tend to be reduced. Healthy sleep lets you interpret events and sensations in a more rational light. Getting better emotional control reduces your overall stress levels, which also helps you sleep better.
The Relaxation Response
Meditation teaches the mind to focus on present thoughts, evoking what’s called the relaxation response. The relaxation response, first discovered in the 1970s, is a physiological change wherein the brain releases chemicals and sends signals that cause the muscles and organs to decrease activity while increasing blood flow to the brain. This response counteracts the “fight or flight” response brought on by stress.
Regular meditation practitioners can develop the ability to trigger their relaxation response. Meditation becomes a simple way to manage stress long term. If you can find a quiet space to sit and meditate, you can bring yourself to a place of mental calm. Meditating not only lets you sleep better but also helps in managing emotions.
How to Use Meditation for Better Sleep
Meditation can be practiced almost anywhere that allows you to get comfortable. It can even be done from the comfort of your own bed. Performing meditation from bed gives you an advantage because as you relax, you’ll drift off to sleep. Just make sure that you have a quiet mattress that doesn’t squeak and distract you from your meditation.
There are many meditative techniques, and not all of them help you sleep. Some are meant to invigorate or enliven the senses, which is the opposite of what you need at bedtime.
Mindfulness meditation has proven to be one of the most effective methods available. It’s simple to do and has been used to treat everything from insomnia to the pain that comes from cancer treatment. This particular method involves choosing a calming focal point, such as the sound of your breath, a calming word, or relaxing phrase. The focal point can either be pictured in the mind or repeated out loud as deep breaths are taken. If you feel your mind start to wander, bring your thoughts back to your focus point and continue to breathe deeply.
There are many meditation apps, books, and online videos available to guide you through this type of meditation. As you train your mind and body to focus on the here and now, you can get the restorative sleep you need to be at your best.
-Article by Ellie Porter