An Exploration of Sleep Meditation
Studies have shown that a great number of American adults suffer from a major lack of sleep. Some adults who are working have experienced a loss of sleep due to work-related matters. This lack of sleep can cause detrimental health issues, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety, and these health issues can cause these American adults to be less productive while they are on the job and less aware of their surroundings.
In order to compensate for their lack of sleep, people tend to consume sleeping pills. Although these aids can help an individual to fall asleep, they can have an adverse effect on a person’s health. A person who is using sleeping pills can suffer from short-term memory loss or experience unreserved desires for sugary foods during the night. Sleeping pills and other sleeping aids may also provoke a loss of balance, dizziness, dryness in the mouth and throat and a tingling sensation in the appendages. Furthermore, sleeping medication may result in a person having a difficult time breathing, chest pain and a nauseous state.
However, there is an alternative to sleeping medication that does not have all of these unfavorable effects. The alternative is sleep meditation, which is also known as mindfulness meditation. It is a popular supportive health strategy that can help you to fall asleep if you have trouble resting. The main focus of mindfulness meditation is to focus on your breathing and awareness of your current place in existence. Studies have shown that this strategy has helped to reduce tiredness and depression and to restore brain functionality and genes.
Rather than focusing on trying to sleep, a person can use mindfulness on the current state of affairs. People have the ability to realize the existence of their senses, feelings and contemplation that travel throughout the mind and to understand that they are not represented by their contemplation and sentiments. Mindfulness is a therapeutic procedure that has connections to Buddhist psychology. In the United States, the relevancy of mindfulness has increased during the previous 15 years. The procedure involves the detachment of oneself from negative thoughts and emotions, which is where you are aware of a negative though but you do not react to it. You can think clearly when you identify your thoughts as your thoughts and your emotions as your emotions, and this practice can help you to release your worries and go to sleep rather than be plagued with restlessness.
Research on Sleep and Meditation
The Age-Reducing Effects of the Relaxation Response
In the 1960s, Herbert Benson, who was a Western doctor from Harvard University, discovered that meditation was beneficial for the body. He realized that meditation could initiate a relaxation response, or RR for short. When you meditate, you decrease your consumption of oxygen and reduce the stress that may have been plaguing you throughout the day. Furthermore, your volume of exhaled nitric oxide grows. Benson realized that the RR could weaken the detrimental effects of depression, restlessness and uneasiness and also produce genetic modifications. Benson and his colleagues released a scientific article to the Public Library of Science ONE in 2008, and they explained how the RR was able to impact the functions of genes. They disclosed how practitioners of meditation were able to reduce and restore the damage that stress can cause to the body because of anti-oxidation and opposition to inflammation upon their genes.
During the relaxation response, you may get initially be negatively impacted by a stressful event that causes the activation of your sympathetic nervous system. This activation can cause your body to produce adrenaline due to in increase in stress, and emotions can impact your body. Anxiety, irritation or amusement can arise, or different bodily sensations, such as sweaty palms or stiffness in the muscles, can occur. Over the duration of time, you reach your peak discomfort, which is when you instinctively decide to run away from your situation or combat it. However, this happens when you are unaware. When you are aware, you can control yourself and choose the right decision for dealing with your problem for relaxation.
Meditation is a type of relaxation response practice that can modify and improve genes by undoing cellular damage that has been caused by mental stress. In Benson’s book, The Relaxation Response, he discussed how the mind and the body become one entity during the relaxation response and how stressed genes can become positive genes during the relaxation response. Brain wave patterns decrease in speed, muscles can loosen up, the heart rate slows down and many other bodily functions improve with the assistance of the relaxation response. People can possess a healthier well-being and communicate with their circumstances more productively.
Insomnia and the Effects of Meditation Sessions
In 2015, a clinical trial performed a study on 49 adults who were at least 55 years old and discussed their issues with their sleeping habits and published the resulted in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal. The adults were separated into two different groups. One group was responsible for taking a course on sleep education, which taught them sleep hygiene routines, such prohibiting their usage of caffeine before going to bad and going to bed before a certain time every night. The other group participated in a class about mindfulness awareness. They learned about meditation techniques and other meditation exercises that were intended to help the adults to acquire focus on current experiences and state of mind. The groups met with each other for two hours every week for a total of six weeks.
After studying the individuals in each subject group, the researchers found that the adults who took part in the mindfulness group experienced a lower amount of stress, restlessness and weakness in comparison to the adults who took part in the sleep education class. The researchers deduced that the practice of mindfulness resulted in improved sleep quality.
According to David S. Black, who is the author of the trial, an assistant professor of the USC’s Keck School of medicine’s preventive medicine class and the American Mindfulness Research Association’s director, the improvement in sleep quality from the mindfulness group was significantly greater than from the sleep education group. He discussed that sleep problems could be reduced with mindfulness awareness and that the effects of mindfulness awareness could traverse through the night into the morning and reduce symptoms for weakness and depression during the day.
Dr. Ron Grunstein, who is a professor of sleep medicine at the USC institute, explained that the study worked for a small number of older adults but did not guarantee success for a younger audience of greater size and duration.
Decreased Depression and Improved Sleep Quality With Meditation
In 2009, another group of researchers studied a small group of young adults between the ages of 25 and 49 years old. After learning about and practicing meditation, these young adults found that their insomnia issues were reduced and other sleeping problems were alleviated. Their sleeping statistics, such as their sleep quantity and quality, were refined.
Dr. Ramadevi Gourineni, who was the principal investigator of the study and is the director of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s insomnia program, taught kriya yoga to the young adults in the study. In kriya yoga, the adults were taught to focus their inner attention, which is a form of deep relaxation. As a result of the trial, Dr. Gourineni discovered that when the adults were taught the techniques during the day, their nighttime sleeping tended to improve.
The Types of Meditations That Are Not Helpful for Improving Sleep
There are many types of mediation, but not all types have the benefit of improving sleep quality. Some types of meditation are directed toward relaxing, but other types are intended for solely focus. The central goal for different meditation techniques is to focus on a particular object, and the object can be mindfulness or an enhanced mental concentration. During the one-year lifetime of the ReSource project, members were required to daily perform different meditation exercises for the duration of three months. Breathing, loving-kindness and introspection meditation techniques were used in the study. The researchers discovered that the typical signs of wakefulness, namely cognitive effort and an increase in heart rate, were present in the demanded meditation techniques.
Even though there are benefits that are associated with any kind of meditation, some types are geared more for relaxation, and others are designed for a sharpened concentration.
Types of Sleeping Meditation
There are numerous forms and uses of meditation. Some kinds encourage focus and cognitive stimulation, but if a meditation exercise uses less effort from the cognition, then it can promote more sleep. There are several kinds of meditation for sleep that you can use to improve your sleep quality, which are progressive muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, counting methods, and a meditation guide.
A Method for Relaxing the Muscles
The Progressive Muscle Relaxation method is a type of night meditation that helps to reduce tension in your muscles. You can practice this meditation before bed by using your mind to identify and progressively relax all the individual muscles in your body so that your body and emotions can relax. Doctor Edmund Jacobson invented this method during the 1920s, who was a psychiatrist and an internal medicine professional. When you practice the method, you tense and relax your different muscle groups while breathing deeps consecutively.
Here are the steps for performing the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method:
- Prepare yourself to go to bed, perform all your sleep hygiene routines and make sure that your room is dark.
- Rest yourself on your floor.
- Inhale and exhale deeply while taking note of your breathing.
- Start at the top of your head and progressively move down toward your feet. Individually tense each one of your muscle groups. Continue to tense for a minimum of five seconds, and calm the muscle group that you just tensed for at most 30 seconds. To aid your relaxation process, you can inhale before you contract your muscle groups and exhale while you relax your muscle groups.
- Try to concentrate on how you felt before each tension and how you feel after each relaxation.
- If you want to do so, you can repeat this method twice.
- By the end of the process, you should feel relaxed and not suffer from any amount of stress that may have been bothering you prior to the session.
You learn to nourish your muscles that allow you to release your worries and stress of life when you practice meditation. The main focus of our culture is to work and be competitive, which causes stress and does not allow you to easily meditate.
These are the different muscle groups that you can tense and contract:
- Your feet, which you can work on by extending and contracting your toes.
- Your calf muscle.
- The entire portion of your legs, which you can relax by squeezing your thigh muscles.
- Your buttocks.
- Your stomach area, which you can suck in to help relax it.
- Your chest, which you can relax by holding your breath.
- Your hands by forming fists.
- Your arms by flexing your muscles and creating fists.
- Your neck and your shoulders by lifting up your shoulders toward your ears.
- Your mouth by fully expanding it and contracting.
- Your eyes by closing them tightly.
- Your forehead by moving your eyebrows upward.
You will know that the relaxation process is working if it feels as if your appendages are heavier than normal.
Relaxing the Body through Breathing Exercises
Breathing is a primary component that is associated with the majority of all meditation techniques. Breathing meditation is where you strictly apply focus to your breathing and even it out between exhaling and inhaling. You also focus on your senses accompanying your breathing, but this practice can be difficult.
You can do breathing meditation at any time during your day, but if you are trying to decrease your restlessness and fall asleep, then you should close your eyes. You can either boost your cognition or relax yourself with breathing meditation, and the second option involves an extended time of exhalation and a shorter time of inhalation.
These are the steps in meditation sleep by breathing:
- Prepare yourself for bed and make sure that your room is dark. Perform all sleep hygiene routines as needed.
- Rest yourself comfortably.
- Realize the connection between all the attributes of your body and the bed. The attributes include your body’s weight, comfort and temperature.
- Try to reduce all tension in your muscles. All you need to do is breathe.
- Concentrate on your breathing and trace your breath through your body. Imagine your breath traveling into your body and out through your nostril.
- If you lose focus of your breathing and think about something else, simply refocus on your breath.
- Try to make sure that you exhale a little bit longer than you exhale, and you should feel yourself relax.
You can also use counting in your breathing for a structured approach to falling asleep. You can use your use to inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds then exhale for eight seconds with your mouth. Dr. Andrew Weil, who is a trained medical doctor from Harvard and is a medicine guru, describes this technique as the 4-7-8 method. Weil explains that you can increase the technique’s power through countless practice sessions.
The Method of Counting Different Objects
The Progressive Muscle Relaxation method and the breathing techniques may require too much of your effort, but there exists a simpler way for you to fall asleep. You may have heard about a deep sleep meditation technique that involved counting sheep until you fell asleep. This technique has been used to reduce the effects of insomnia because of the key requirement of counting, not necessarily the sheep. You can replace sheep with any object to use the counting technique.
The purpose of any sleep meditation is to focus on the inner mechanisms of the body and mind and take the mind off of outside distractions and circumstances. Counting can help you to do this because counting only requires that you know how to count in sequential order. Your mind can automatically do this as you progress into the higher numbers, which can relax your mind and make you fall asleep.
According to Morgan Dix, who is a meditation teacher and one of the founders of AboutMeditation.com, you can employ the counting method to detach your attention from your normal thoughts and viewpoints and focus your mind on counting. You can train the awareness of your counting by gradually reverting you mind back to your counting away from the things that your mind usually focuses on.
These are the steps that you can take to properly and effectively utilize the power of the counting practice:
- Perform your regular sleep hygiene tasks to prepare yourself to go to bed. Deactivate all the lights in your bedroom.
- Comfortably assume a horizontal position of rest.
- Begin to count slowly.
- You mind may begin to think of different times and troubling situations, but you can avoid this by gently pushing those thoughts away and directing your focus back toward your counting process.
- Count to any number that you can think of or for as long as you need to. You should induce sleep upon yourself by the end of this process.
Guided Meditation for Sleep
As another course of action, you can use guided meditation, which is where a meditation instructor leads a meditation session and you follow the given instruction. The content of guided meditation can be any kind of meditation, such as the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method, breathing exercises, counting assignments or other mindfulness techniques. Rather than guiding yourself to be meditated, you allows a certified meditation teacher guide your process. A trained practitioner typically directs the guided meditation sessions. You can use guided meditation either in person, from an online source or from a meditation guide medium, such as a book or an audio tape, that you can purchase. You may find it more beneficial to use an audio tape to induce sleep since your goal is typically to fall asleep for the night. Books, videos and visits to meditation gurus are still viable options if you find that they are necessary.
Here is how you can use meditation guides to help you to induce sleep upon yourself:
- Prepare yourself for sleep in the space that you are in. This can be in the presence of an instructor or at your dwelling place.
- If you are in the same space as other people, you should use comfortable headphones so that you do not wake up any other people and since you will be falling asleep with the headphones in your ears. You can either employ a meditation application or a preselected audio file that you find relaxing.
- You can then simply listen to the guide and to the music that is designed to relax your body.
- Follow the guide that will direct you through its intended meditation techniques, which can be the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method, the 4-7-8 breathing method or other sound breathing methods, counting techniques, visualization of different abstractions or other sleep meditation exercises.
Resources for Sleep Meditation That You Can Find on the Internet
Here are some soundtracks that you can use for meditation:
- Dartmouth University offers several Relaxation Downloads, which are a series of different meditation guides that are offered for free. Dartmouth graduates and professors and prepared both guided visualization exercises and heavy breathing techniques. They have composed several instrumentals and included classic music in their exercises.
- Raga is a free selection of Indian music that is peaceful and relaxing. Pt Shiv Kumar and Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia are some of the individuals for performed ths music.
- YouTube offers the Sleep track for free. You can also find it for free on the Amazon Music mobile application with a membership or buy it at a cost. It is a chorus that lasts about 10 minutes that Eric Whitacre composed with his virtual choir.
- You can find music played with the Japanese shakuhachi bamboo flute for free or purchase an album for relaxing music.
Here are some books that you can use to guide yourself in different meditation techniques:
- The Miracle of Mindfulness, which was written by Thich Nhat Hanh, teaches the rudiments of how you can be consciously aware of every moment so that you can reveal your current focuses and heal your body.
- Joseph Emet wrote Buddha’s Book of Sleep, which is where is discusses several exercises that you can use to help you fall asleep. He also explains why mindfulness is a key in inducing sleep.
- Another book that you can read is Full Catastrophe Living. Throughout the book, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is a scientist and a meditation teacher, reveals how you can connect your body to your mind to heal your body. Some processes that Kabat-Zinn discusses are informal and formal, and you can use both types.
These are some sleep meditation videos that you can watch so that you can learn how to be effective when practicing meditation and what common mistakes to avoid:
- The free How to Meditate guide is a 35-minute instructional video that you can watch online. It educates you on what meditation techniques you can effectively practice. It also demonstrates common mistakes that you can make while you are meditating and how you can avoid performing those errors.
- Meditation for Beginners is a meditation DVD that is led by Maritza. Maritza directs three different workouts that are about 20 minutes each. Maritza is a lyengar yoga professional and has been working in the meditation field since 1982.
- Be Mindful is a relatively inexpensive course that you can take online over the course of 10 weeks. It contains a few videos and audio guides that you can download. Ed Halliwell and Tessa Watt are both mindfulness trainers who teach the course. They specialize in the reduction of stress and mental therapy so that people can repair their cognition. The trainers created the course with the help of Wellmind Media and the Mental Health Foundation, which is a charity in the United Kingdom.
- Sharon Salzberg is an expert in meditation practices and is the director of How Mindfulness Empowers us. This is a free animated short film that demonstrates how you can view your sentiments and your perceptions as they truly are. The film features two wolves who are symbolically fighting inside the hearts of human beings, and they use meditation to examine their minds and their bodies and examine each in detail.
- The free Meditate for Sleep video guide teaches you how to breathe deeply for your own relaxation. Brett Larkin, who is a teacher of yoga and meditation practices, shows how you can do you meditation techniques in bed with headphones that are designed for sleep usage.
- You can find free meditation guides on TED Talk. One such guide is How to Succeed, which is directed by Arianna Huffington. Huffington, who was an editor of the Huffington Post, teaches you how you can use meditation to become more productive and live with a happier conduct.
These are some popular blogs and websites that you can visit to study meditation:
- You can search for documentation and scholarly articles on mindfulness from American Mindfulness Research Association’s website. It has numerous psychological journals that explain the concepts and practicality of mindfulness.
- The Headspace blog is a source for advice about meditation and research on different meditation techniques. It has other various sections for how you can deal with your personal relationships by practicing meditation and for how you can live freely and more productively with an open mind. The blog presents the Radio Headspace podcast, which offers interviews with professors of medicine and deep discussions about mindfulness meditation.
- Sharon Salzberg has her own blog that teaches people about meditation practices.She has free podcasts available along with free meditation guides.
- AboutMeditation.com hosts its own meditation blog and has posts about developing different strategies for dealing with some aspects of meditation for sleep. The blog discusses how you can induce sleep upon yourself and how you can keep yourself awake using the sleeping type of meditation.
- The Wheel is a meditation blog that is hosted by Shambhala Publications. Authors of the blog demonstrate different meditation tricks and tips.
- Tiny Buddha is another meditation blog that offers tips on meditation and mindfulness. The blog posts teach you how you can improve your sleep quality and reduce morning fatigue. They also educate you on how you can calm and slow down your mind if you have an very active mind and are suffering from poor sleep.
- A free journal that you can study is Art of Dharma. You can access it online and learn meditation tips from other practitioners of meditation.
- As a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NCCIH, or the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, website offers Meditation: In Depth. This aspect introduces several professional articles on how meditation has been effective in the lives of studied individuals. The feature offers research for additional meditation effects and usages throughout people’s lives.
Here are some favored audio files and applications that can help influence your meditation techniques:
- The One Mind, which is available on AboutMeditation.com, is a podcast that teaches how you can apply meditation practice to your every life. You can learn how to improve your work, health and liveliness in relationships and in leisure. If you are hurting from a relationship or entering a love relationship, you can learn how to build a foundation in your mind and body for any future relationships. The podcast also showcases scientific news from around the world.
- The Greater Good in Action meditation guide is free from UC at Berkeley. If offers a downloadable body scan option and several meditation guides for going about your day.
- The University of California at Los Angeles offers free meditation guides from its Mindful Awareness Research Center. The center provides guides in different languages, such as Spanish, and offers a body scan that you can use for your sleeping habits.
- The Relax Melodies mobile app provides you with the sounds of nature and traditional Asian melodies.
- You can find additional sleep resources from MIT Medical. The website offers downloadable audio files that you can use to reduce the negative effects of insomnia, manage your stress and refine your sleep. It has resources that you can use to help you relax during your bedtime so that you can easily fall asleep. It has a yoga sleep file that you can use to relax. The website also has mindfulness tools that you can utilize for connecting your mind and body, such as a body scan and yoga.
- The free Relax & Sleep Well app, which is available for both Android and Apple products, has several recordings on how you can hypnotize yourself and how you can meditate. The hypnosis demonstrations have been recorded in four hypnotherapy sessions by Glenn Harrold, a practitioner of meditation. The app has available features for alleviating insomnia and stressful anxiety. It also introduces tools for losing weight, scanning your body while you are sleeping and encouraging mindfulness so that you can improve your sleep at night. It has features that you can purchase for additional information on meditation and hypnosis.
- The free Digipill mobile app, which is available for both Apple and Android products, has features that you can purchase. It provides meditation guides that teach you how to remove insomnia and other health issues from your life.
Research has shown that sleeping meditation can assist you by reducing the negative effects of your sleeping issues and increasing your sleep quality. You can eliminate all sources of outside distraction and merely focus on your mind. You can focus on tensing and relaxing your muscles with the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method. You can even out your breathing either by inhaling through your nose, holding your breath then exhaling through your mouth or by imagining your breath flowing throughout your body. You can use the method of counting to nullify your mind. You can exploit the internet to find online videos and soundtracks that can give you guided meditation sleep. These are some of the methods by which you can induce sleep and influence your mental health and your genes.