How Meditation Helps You Sleep Better
In a world where time is a luxury, and work-related tasks take most of our waking hours, the need to sleep better should be a top priority for all of us.
Today, the average number of hours of sleep per night had decreased by an hour and a half (6 – 6 and a half hours) compared to 1950 when people slept on average 8 hours per night.
Recent discoveries in the field of neurology come with new theories on the importance of sleep for mental health, forcing us to reconsider how we build our lives and set our priorities.
Sadly, sleep is no longer a top priority for us (even though we know it should be). We often choose to sacrifice sleep for the sake of productivity. We spend long hours at the office and stay up late watching TV and playing video games to reward ourselves for all the hard work we put in that day.
As a result, we get about 6 hours of sleep – which is apparently not enough – and wake up exhausted the next day. And the vicious cycle continues.
Soon enough, we come to realize that it’s not only the quantity but also the quality of our sleep that has suffered a severe downfall.
But what if we were to change our pre-sleep routine?
What if there was a way to turn those 6-7 hours into quality sleep?
Fortunately, meditation can help us sleep better and wake up rested and fresh the next morning.
Why Do We Need Proper Sleep?
Researchers have long discovered that humans have a circadian rhythm that regulates their sleep and wakefulness.
We know that this system imposes a specific rest program, but we’re not 100% sure why this happens.
Here’s what we know so far:
- There are certain tissues which regenerate faster during sleep.
- Also, during sleep, our body releases growth hormones which are essential for the healthy development of children.
- Dreaming is a mechanism by which the brain reorganizes information assimilated during the day and wipes out unnecessary details.
- Sleeplessness leads to low energy levels during the day which can severely impact mood and performance. When we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to become irritable, intolerant, and moody.
- The lack of quality sleep also impairs our ability to stay focused on a given task.
Although sleep is still a mystery for many researchers and mental health professionals, we know for a fact that during sleep, our body recovers and heals itself. Plus, – and this is something we can all agree on – sleep is refreshing and restful.
But what is the link between meditation and quality sleep?
Meditation and Good Quality Sleep
To find out how meditation helps us sleep better, we need to understand why we sometimes struggle with falling asleep.
Many of us begin to ruminate about unresolved issues and imagine all sorts of worst-case scenarios the minute our head touches the pillow. We cannot help but think about all the unfinished tasks on our to-do list that will probably have to take care of tomorrow.
Those of us who face sleepless nights tend to have an excess of beta waves, known as the dominant mental state that characterizes anxiety and stress. As a result, the process of falling asleep is offset and moved closer to our usual wake-up hour.
Even if it’s normal to lose several hours of sleep every now and then, in the long run, sleep deprivation can have adverse effects on your overall health and energy levels.
By practicing meditation, you can reduce the stress and anxiety caused by everyday hassles. Consequently, lower levels of stress and anxiety will lead to healthier sleep.
But aside from helping you get rid of the stress and anxiety that’s keeping you up at night, meditation can also have a direct impact on sleep.
A 2004 study on the effects of Hatha Yoga and Omkar Meditation revealed some interesting changes that occur in the neurochemistry of our brain after practicing these meditative techniques.
Not only that meditation leads to improved cardiorespiratory performance, but it also increases the secretion of melatonin, the hormone which helps us fall asleep.
In a nutshell, it seems that meditation is an effective way of managing the factors that cause poor sleep quality. A brief yoga or meditation session before you go to bed will help you sleep better and wake up fully refreshed the next day.
Through sleep, meditation opens the door to higher states of consciousness
One of the main reasons why people choose to practice meditation is to achieve a higher state of consciousness that will open their eyes to new perspectives and help them understand themselves on a deep level.
And sleep might actually be the vehicle that takes us there.
A study published in Sleep revealed that long-term practitioners of Transcendental Meditation experience high states of consciousness during sleep.
As described by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, “transcendental consciousness is the first of a sequence of higher states. The maintenance of transcendental consciousness along with deep sleep is said to be a distinctive criterion of further, stabilized higher states of consciousness.”
When we practice Transcendental Meditation, we experience a state in which the mind is tranquil, though in a state of complete vigilance. To transcend means to go beyond thoughts, ideas, and perceptions. It means to go beyond any activity that might prevent you from being in complete contact with your most inner self. It is a state that can best be described as transcendental consciousness.
And based on what the previously mentioned study has discovered, it appears seasoned meditators can experience this state during sleep. It’s a perfect example of how meditation and sleep “team up” to help us explore new horizons.
Use Meditation to Sleep Better and Live Better
Although meditation has – to some extent – a direct impact on sleep, the relationship between this practice and good quality sleep derives from the positive impact it has on various aspects of our life.
The fact that we can use meditation to calm our anxious mind and put aside the difficulties of everyday life allows us to sleep better and get that well-deserved rest.
Furthermore, the constant use of meditation will eventually lead to significant changes brain waves; changes that can help us sleep better. For example, experts have concluded that the brains of meditators switch to Delta waves while they’re in-session or asleep. This frequency can deepen the sleep state and help us recharge our batteries.
That’s because meditation is not just a practice (or technique, as occasional practitioners choose to call it), but a way of life.
The conscious thinking that we experience and acquire through meditation brings un in the present moment and anchors us there. This incredible sense of self-awareness that we achieve while we meditate is often the only way to put an end to the negative thoughts and constant worries that prevent us from falling asleep.
If you want to sleep better, start by adding meditation to your list of daily habits.