5 Benefits of Meditation for Deep and Restorative Sleep
Meditation is one of the oldest practices of spirituality in the world. It is believed to have begun some five thousand years ago in modern day India as a part of the Hindu religion and it spread to the Taoists practicing in China and the Buddhists in India approximately twenty-five hundred years ago. When the Silk Road trade occurred in the middle ages, the practice was brought west into Judaism and Christianity in Europe and western Asia.
With millions of regular practitioners around the world, this practice is no longer purely religious and has mental as well as physical benefits. Meditation can ease stress, help combat obesity through mindful eating, can help to control addictions to alcohol and other drugs, and can help improve the memory.
One major benefit of meditation is not only the immediate sense of relaxation, but also the positive results it can have on your sleep.
What Is Meditation?
There are many different cultures and religions that practice meditation, and every practice varies in the methods employed. However, the end goal is generally the same for all meditation, and that is to achieve a state of calm, peace, and thoughtlessness.
While this might seem to very easy to do, when sitting down to meditate, suddenly all of the stress and successes of everyday life tend to come rushing into your thoughts.
It can take years of practice to achieve that true state of thoughtlessness. However, even if you are not able to completely clear your head during meditation, even practicing can help you reap benefits for sleep and all over bodily health.
How Do I Learn To Meditate?
There are many different forms of meditation, so a good place to start is to look into different forms. Some people use guided meditation when they are first getting started so they can learn how to meditate from someone who is experience. Some larger cities have centers that you can go to meditate with others, and these may offer guided meditation. You can also find guided meditation online.
Other people like to meditate very simply. Many suggest settling in a comfortable position, closing your eyes or not focusing on anything, and focusing on your breathing or a short mantra to hold your focus. If a thought comes into your mind, acknowledge the thought, let it drift away, and continuing to focus on your breathing or mantra.
There is no special breathing exercises necessary, just how you typically breathe. From there, you can find other ways to meditate to continue your journey into mindfulness.
It’s important to not get frustrated as you are just beginning to practice meditation. Don’t sit down and attempt to practice for hours. It is suggested to start very small, practice only a couple minutes at a time every day until you can work up to longer periods of time.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
While it can seem self-explanatory, sleep is so essential for a healthy mind and body.
Everyone has experienced the aftereffects of a poor night’s sleep, which can include irritability, loss of concentration, and lack of energy throughout your entire day. However, if sleeplessness is something that occurs on a regular basis, the sufferer is more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease, a weakened immune system, as well as memory issues later in life.
Making time for a good night’s sleep will keep you healthy both in the short term as well as long run.
5 Ways Meditation Can Benefit Sleep
1. Meditation Helps to Lower Stress and Help With Insomnia
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects nearly eight million Americans every night and is characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Up to thirty-five percent of adults in the United States report that they experience insomnia briefly, while up to twenty percent of adults report having regular insomnia for a short period of time, in this case defined as less than three months. (1)
Up to ten percent of adults experience insomnia at least three nights a week for longer than three months. Insomnia costs the US economy billions of dollars every year due to sick days and lost productivity.
There are a variety of different causes for insomnia, including allergies, chronic pain, heartburn, and restless leg syndrome. However, many sufferers of depression and anxiety have troubles with sleeping, particularly insomnia.
Insomniacs who are kept up at night by persistent stressful, troubling, or sad thoughts can find help with these issues through meditation. Focusing on your breathing, a mantra or even how soft your sheets are can help those thoughts leave your mind and help you get back to sleep faster.
2. Meditation Lowers Dependence on Sleep Aids
With the number of Americans that suffer from insomnia, the number of products, prescription, over-the-counter, and natural, that are supposed to offer relief from this common condition is staggering. (2)
There are many of these that work well for helping those who have troubles sleeping get to sleep, but many of the ones that work well run a high risk of dependency if taken for more than a couple days at a time.
Furthermore, sleep aids can mask underlying problems of why you are unable to get a good night’s sleep, and many of these conditions need to be discussed with a doctor. When you meditate for better sleep, you do not have to depend to sleep aids in order to enjoy a good night’s rest and are able to be more in touch with the overall health of your body.
3. Meditation Can Help Sleep Walkers Sleep Better
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a peculiar phenomenon that affects over eight million adults every year, and almost thirty percent of Americans have experienced sleepwalking at least once in their lifetime. (3) While sleepwalking is more common in children, which is a relatively normally part of their sleep habits, sleep walking in adults is less common, and can be a result of an underlying disorder.
Sleepwalking can have many different causes or be linked to other conditions. It may be caused by genetics, restless leg syndrome, or even heartburn. However, recent studies have shown that there is an increased risk of sleepwalking in those who experience clinical depression and anxiety.
There is also evidence that those who are taking certain medications for their mental illnesses can see an increase sleepwalking as these medications can definitely disrupt normal sleep patterns in adults.
In a roundabout way, if sleepwalking and depression are tied together, meditation can be a great tool for easing the sleepwalking. Many believe that whether you are suffering from a chemical imbalance or a traumatic or stressful situation that causes depression, meditation can help to find an inner calm and relieve persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness. This can also help depression from occurring in the first place.
4. Meditation Can Help With Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a sleep and nervous system disorder that leaves the sufferer with a compelling urge to move their legs and arms, as well as uncomfortable sensations.
Most find that sitting or lying down makes these feelings worse, and often times have a harder time with this disorder in the later hours of the day. Nearly ten percent of the population struggles with this disorder, but women tend to suffer from it at a higher rate than men. For some people this syndrome can be so severe that it interferes with sleep on a nightly basis.
Doctors are not really sure why some people are so compelled to move their arms and legs. Genetics seems to play a role in this syndrome, and pregnancy can play a role in restless leg syndrome as well.
There are very few universal treatment options for restless leg syndrome, though massages and hot baths are said to help relieve some of the symptoms. However, more and more people are finding guided meditation when working with an experienced meditation guide are able to relieve their symptoms and give them a better night’s sleep.
5. Meditation May Reduce the Need for Sleep
It is during sleep when the body repairs and recovers from the daily stresses of life. Internal and external healing occurs during this period, and the duration and quality of sleep both play a part in the next day’s performance. In participants who meditated, there was an improvement in performance.
Interestingly, in those who observed long-term meditative practices, results showed a decrease in total sleep time without a decrease in performance. This suggests that meditation may even replace a portion of sleep or pay-off sleep debt.
Meditation is an age-old practice that has roots throughout the world. Whether you practice for religious or spiritual purposes, or to reap the physical and mental health benefits available, there are many different benefits to enjoy.
Whether you are an insomniac or are regularly plagued by sleep walking, there are many different benefits meditation has for sleep disorders. Even if you do not have a sleep disorder, meditation before bed can help you sleep better and experience more pleasant dreams.