There’s nothing worse than having to lurch through the day in a haze of tiredness. But it’s an experience that many Americans are all too familiar with.
The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly 50 percent of adults do not receive the minimum recommended seven hours of sleep. It’s even worse for teenagers — fewer than 25 percent of teens receive the recommended eight hours of sleep a day. Nearly half of all men and women have trouble falling asleep.
Sleep deprivation can reduce your cognitive and fine-motor skills to the level of an intoxicated person. Over the longer term, lack of sleep can lead to increased weight gain, higher risk of stroke, and decreased immune response. What we have on our hands is a sleep deprivation epidemic.
In this article, we’ll be going through why guided meditation is an excellent way to quicken falling asleep as well as create a better quality of sleep. We’ll finish it all off with a set of custom-made guided meditations for sleep and rest that you can start using tonight to help you drift off.
Why Do People Have Trouble Falling Asleep?
There are many reasons why people are not getting enough sleep. Some of them are out of their control, such as work hours or having to care for children.
But often, we lack sleep because of things like stress, apprehension, and anxiety. Your mind ruminates on the past, present, and future as soon as the distractions from electronics and daily life are removed when your head hits the pillow. With thoughts racing, it’s impossible to calm your mind to the point where it can finally release its conscious portion and allow you to drift off to sleep.
Certain medical conditions can also prevent people from being able to fall asleep, such as nasal congestion and reflux. If this is the underlying cause of your inability to sleep, then these need to be treated separately.
Other lifestyle factors may also be getting in the way of a sleeping properly. These include overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol, shift work, or napping too much during the day. They also include poor sleep habits, such as working with electronics in bed or exercising too close to bedtime. In these cases, an improved bedtime routine may cure a troubled sleeper.
But often, trouble sleeping is caused by emotional and mental distress. For many, trouble sleeping is triggered by depression and anxiety. In turn, the lack of sleep can then exacerbate these conditions, creating a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle.
Most people have experienced nights when they cannot get nagging thoughts and ideations out of their mind. Anxiety takes over your mind and instead of feeling restful and placid, your heart and breathing rates may even increase. In fact, the majority of adults with stress-induced sleep problems experience it several times a week.
Since a whopping 80 percent of Americans feel stressed, it’s no wonder that fatigue and trouble sleeping are so prevalent. On average, adults only sleep 6.6 hours each night. Despite sleeping any amount of time, 61 percent of women and 45 percent of men report feeling unrested.
It doesn’t take constant stress, however, to create a pattern of sleep deprivation and restless nights. It might be that you had to stay up late one day to work, and subsequently messed up your sleeping cycle. Despite feeling fine the next night, you find that you’re unable to slip into deep sleep: Your body is now confused as to when it should be up and when it should gear down. You may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, your mind on work, and wonder where your laptop is.
This is how stress can affect your sleep even if you manage to get the recommended hours of sleep every night. Most sleep that we do get is “light sleep.” You are asleep, but you do not dream: You are easily roused from this state and won’t feel groggy if you wake up during this time.
Twenty percent of your sleep is “deep sleep.” In this state, your brain activity will go down initially, but then increase as you slip further into REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement sleep.
The magic of sleep happens during the REM cycle: it’s when dreams and memory processing occurs. It is during deep sleep when your mind and body is able to most able to recuperate from a hard day’s work. If you are being roused during the night for whatever reason, but still sleeping for a solid eight hours overall, your sleep quality is poor and you’ll still face the effects of sleep deprivation.
Meditation can help us both fall asleep and help us get a high quality of sleep. Read on to learn exactly how meditation helps a person sleep.
How Does Meditation Help Sleep?
A 2015 study by Harvard Medical School shows that meditation for sleep helps with sleep disorders, including in their most severe form, insomnia.
The six-week study involving middle-aged and older adults who were experiencing insomnia was published in the prestigious JAMA Internal Medicine journal. The study divided the participants into two groups, one of which completed a mindfulness-awareness program which taught them meditation and mindfulness exercises. The other group were simply instructed in conventional sleep hygiene.
After six weeks, the group that had incorporated a daily mindfulness practice had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression than those that were simply taught better sleep hygiene. The study concluded that “mindfulness meditation appears to have a role in addressing the prevalent burden of sleep problems among older adults.”
From this study, it appears that sleep meditation has a soothing effect on the mind, enough to help someone drift off to sleep.
But there’s more! Sleep meditation not only helps you fall asleep faster, it also helps you sleep better. Senior practitioners of Vipassana meditation show enhanced states of deep and REM sleep compared to non-meditating groups of the same age. Vipassana meditators experienced a higher number of sleep cycles, indicating higher quality sleep.
Start with guided meditation to experience the benefits of meditation for sleep. Guided meditation takes the learning curve out your meditation practice, and makes you feel like you have a friend helping you achieve meditation.
6 Guided Meditations For Sleep
Spire has a huge repertoire of guided meditations on hand in our SoundCloud library. Here are some handpicked options best suited for sleep meditation.
1. Sleep Deeper
This guided meditation is hosted by Dr. Deepak Chopra, the renowned New Age, mind-body, and mindfulness expert. This powerful guided meditation goes on for only 12 minutes. It has a gentle music and relaxing sound track in the background, and takes you through breathing exercises helping you release stress and let go of nagging thoughts. It helps bring you above the busyness of your mind by “pretending that you are being breathed instead of breathing.”
2. Short Body Scan
This is a short meditation that uses the tool of a body scan to help you unwind. Over the course of five minutes, this guided meditation brings all of your attention to your body. By concentrating on physical sensations, you distract your mind from mundane worries and re-appreciate your physical health and body. There is no background music in this track, just a woman’s gentle voice guiding you through breathing exercises and body focus.
3. Body Compassion
This short yet powerful meditation helps you relax through gratitude. Over the course of five minutes, this guided meditation fills you with happiness and wonder at the miracle that is your body. It also reminds you that your body works hard all day long, and needs rest. Through compassion, it teaches your mind to stop being so self-centered and that it needs to wind down for the good of itself as much as your body. There is no background music in this track.
4. Being Still
In only three minutes, you can turn a restless body into a calm lake. The meditation combines in-and-out breaths to individual body parts. The gentle sounds of chimes bring you to a state of peaceful immobility through muscle relaxation. You’ll be saying “good night” in record time.
5. Quiet the Mind
This meditation, guided by Dr. Deepak Chopra, takes you through simple breathing exercises to deepen your breath. It has you hold your breath for a few seconds and take a long out breath. Chopra doesn’t speak for too long throughout this meditation, so you get to breathe deeply while enjoying the gentle ambiance of some background music.
Turn Stressful Into Restful
Many people are so frustrated with an inability to sleep that they turn to harmful substances, such as alcohol and medications, to get a shut-eye. But sleep is a core function that is as natural as eating, going to the bathroom, and breathing. Sleep should not be such a challenge.
It is possible to get a restful sleep every night — all you need to do is shift a few habits and prioritize stress management. Consider incorporating stress reduction throughout your day with the Spire tool. It makes relaxation easy by tracking your breathing rate and sending you a message when you are falling into a state of stress. By taking a pause at these moments — through a few breathing exercises or a quick meditation — you can ensure that you make your way through your day and to bed carrying a minimum amount of tension.
In no time, peaceful sleep will become your new normal. You’ll scarcely believe you went so long without it.