Healthy sleep has more to do with quality of rest than quantity of hours. Sleep meditations help create the inner conditions needed for a truly restful night. Because when we settle the mind, we rest the body — and that restfulness is what makes it easier to wind down and drift off.
What is meditation for sleep?
Meditation trains us to be less in our head and more aware of the present moment. The mind’s tendency to get caught up in thoughts is perhaps strongest at bedtime, when we suddenly stop and be still.
Meditation for sleep is a specific, guided experience that offers a natural sleep aid all on its own, allowing us to let go of the day—everything that’s happened and everything that’s been said — so that we can rest the mind while simultaneously resting the body.
In scientific terms, meditation helps lower the heart rate by igniting the parasympathetic nervous system and encouraging slower breathing, thereby increasing the prospect of a quality night’s sleep.
While working through a sleep-based guided meditation, you may discover new tools and techniques to help relax the body and mind and let go of the day, easing into restfulness.
The sleep deprivation epidemic
Sleep is as critical to our wellbeing as food, water or shelter. Yet, as a society, we don’t always treat it this way. Research shows that Americans lack proper sleep: Most adults function best when they sleep 7-9 hours per night, but over 40% of Americans sleep fewer than 7 hours nightly, according to a recent Gallup poll. 30% of people report difficulty falling and staying asleep at least a few times per month; 6% experience insomnia on a near-nightly basis. This problem has even birthed an entire industry: In 2014, people around the world spent $58 billion on sleep-aids, a figure projected to rise to $76.7 billion by 2019.
Some people feel pride or resilience in their ability to function well without sleep. We can see this reflected in phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “You snooze, you lose.” More recently, however, sleep has emerged in research and culture as an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.
What keeps people up at night?
Almost half of us are sleep deprived — but not because we don’t want to sleep. Sometimes we simply can’t fall asleep or stay asleep due to a range of biological forces and lifestyle choices. You know how it goes: You put your head on the pillow and it appears as though the mind suddenly goes into overdrive. Of course, the thoughts have been there all along; it’s just that without any distractions, you become aware of them.
Technology has also contributed to increased sleep problems: 90% of Americans use technology during the hour before bed (this includes watching tv, using cell phones, playing video games, using computers, and more). Many of us even sleep with cell phones under our pillows or next to our faces with the ringer on. Unfortunately, mindless screen and technology use is negatively associated with solid sleep: one study showed that the more devices an individual uses in a given day, the more difficulty they may have falling and staying asleep. These effects were seen mostly in people who were highly engaged with their devices throughout the day, and even more so in those who went to sleep with their phone ringers turned on (even for use as an alarm clock) or other interruptive devices nearby.