Meditation techniques that can improve sleep

3 sleep meditation techniques for a good night’s rest

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Having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. We spoke to a meditation teacher to find out how to sleep better and for longer.

According to research by the sleep tech company Simba, in partnership with The Sleep Charity, 65% of people in England fail to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, with over a third describing their sleep quality as poor.

If you’ve tried limiting your screen time, journaling, a hot shower or bath before bed and even made sure you’ve got some exercise earlier in the day, sleep meditation might be for you. Here, meditation teacher Ciara McGinley shares her thoughts on how a meditation practice can help you get a good night’s sleep.

What is sleep meditation?

When we are anxious or stressed, our sympathetic nervous system (aka our fight or flight response) is in overdrive. While this response is important for keeping us safe if we are in danger, in this fast-paced world we often spend more time in this state than we need to. The good news? Meditation is a direct neutraliser to this stress response. When we meditate, we kick-start our parasympathetic nervous system (aka our rest and digest response), which signals to our brain that we’re safe and it’s ok to rest. This is the state we want to be in to fall asleep, and meditation can help get us here.

What’s more, research shows that those with moderate sleep issues can have fewer symptoms of insomnia and less daytime fatigue if they practice meditation regularly.

What are the best sleep meditation techniques for those who struggle?

There are lots of different types of sleep meditation to try, from yoga nidra to body scans, you just need to try a few to find out what works best for you. If you haven’t got time to fully explore sleep tourism or sound therapy, here are three that I swear by for a good night’s sleep.

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meditation techniques for a good night’s sleep


Box breathing

The box breathing technique is simple yet effective, making it an ideal sleep meditation. Often used by Navy SEALS to help them stay calm in stressful situations, it involves visualising a box in your mind, and using the visualisation to guide your breath. The focus on the extended exhale here signals to the brain that you are safe, and triggers the rest and digest response encouraging your nervous system to relax.

How to do it:

  • Lie down and close your eyes.
  • Begin to imagine a box or a square in your mind.
  • As you imagine one side of the box, inhale through the nose for a count of four.
  • As you imagine the top of the box, hold your breath for a count of four.
  • As you imagine the other side of the box, exhale through your mouth for a count of four.
  • As you imagine the bottom of the box, hold the exhalation for a count of four.
  • Repeat this five to 10 times and use the visualisation of the box in your mind to guide your breathing.
Read more: The actual impact of having a bad night’s sleep: according to the experts
Meditating for better sleep
Body scan meditation

This mindfulness meditation technique can help you to let go of any tension of the day by bringing an awareness into the body. In this practice, you’ll scan your body from top to toe or vice versa, noticing any physical sensations or mental tension and releasing it with a deep breath.

How to do it:

  • Lie down in your bed and get comfortable.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
  • Notice the contact you are making with the bed beneath you.
  • Start to focus on your feet, and then your calves and then your thighs.
  • Continue moving your awareness upwards, focusing on relaxing each body part one by one.
  • If your mind wanders at any time, bring your attention back to the feeling of your bed supporting your body.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction, from your head to your fee.
Read more: Are your devices affecting your sleep? 
Boost sleep with these meditation techniques
Affirmation meditation

Sleep affirmations are a great addition to any night-time meditation practice. In fact, research suggests positive self-affirmation can help to calm the body and mind. What’s more, affirmations also stop a busy mind from wandering during meditation, anchoring our thoughts so we can focus on our practice. You can use a sleep meditation like the one suggested below, or create your own.

How to do it:

  • Lie down and close your eyes.
  • Take 10 deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
  • Allow your body to relax more and more with each breath.
  • Begin to silently repeat an affirmation in your mind.
  • This can be your own affirmation, or something like ‘I am calm’, ‘I look forward to a restorative sleep’, ‘I deserve rest’.
  • Repeat this phrase in your mind for a few times as you breathe deeply.

To find out more about how meditation can help you in your day-to-day life, head to Ciara’s website.

Words by Ciara McGinley

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