Toss the pills and hit the pillows with meditation. New research is shining light on the fact that pills, which only sedate us, do not give us the benefits of deep, rejuvenating, restful sleep.
On the other hand, meditation can help us calm the mind, relax the body, and help us drift off peacefully and easily into the best sleep we’ve ever had.
Here, I’ll talk about the things that prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep, what we can do to sleep great every night, and the latest science behind how and why it works.
Why Can’t I Sleep?!
In these modern times of great scientific and pharmacological advancements, with countless sleep aids and sleep specialists, you’d think people would be sleeping more and better than ever. But if you take a closer look, sleep disorders have reached all time highs.
According to the American Sleep Association, nearly 70 million people in the United States, or 1 in 5, have at least one sleep disorder.
Trouble sleeping leads to numerous problems in our personal lives, from weight gain to strained relationships.
In our professional lives, sleep disorders can cause costly mistakes due to memory problems and it leads to a poorer job performance overall.
But worst of all, poor sleep accounts for over 1,500 deaths from car accidents every year and more than 40,000 injuries.
This map illustrates the prevalence of adults who get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night.
There are many causes for sleeplessness, but they all stem from the same problem: a restless mind and body.
In today’s fast-paced world, we’re all becoming used to being highly distracted, over stressed, always entertained, constantly engaged in some sort of task, continuously having multiple digital interactions at once, perpetually caffeinated, and hardly having a moment of down time until we hit the pillow and try to go to sleep.
Today, in our world of blue-lit screens, it’s more of a miracle that anyone can get any sleep at all.
Sleep and Sedation Are Not the Same Thing
Many people in recent years have been turning to sleep medicines to aid them in their sleep.
However, new science is showing that this sedation does not lead to the same detoxifying, healing and restorative benefits of deep sleep.
Quite the contrary. Whether it’s pharmaceutical medications, over the counter sleep aids, alcohol or marijuana, they all prevent the body from getting to the deepest levels of both REM and non-REM sleep cycles.
For many people, pharmaceutical sleep aids have shown to be addictive, cause hallucinations, and have side effects like sleep walking, sleep driving, sleep eating, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, memory loss, and even insomnia!
Even natural sleep aids like melatonin supplements have been shown to decrease the body’s own ability to produce melatonin and can make sleeplessness worse.
All of these treatments suffer from the same logical fallacy: they treat the symptom, not the person.
How Meditation Can Help
Luckily, there is an incredibly powerful and simple way to cure sleeplessness and insomnia naturally and permanently with no harmful side effects. You’ve probably guessed, but I’ll tell you anyway. It’s meditation!
Studies have shown that meditation increases melatonin and serotonin in the brain (the sleep chemicals), lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and lights up the parts of the brain that activate sleep.
In fact, meditating puts the body into the same physical and mental state as when we first begin to doze off. Meditation also quiets the mind, relaxes our muscles, and sets us up for a deep and restful sleep.
Compared with other sleep therapies, meditation for sleeping had better results, leading to fewer symptoms of insomnia and more energy during the day.
How to Meditate for Sleep
For best results, meditate twice a day, once in the morning and once right before you go to sleep. However, you can also get great results simply by meditating at night as a way to fall asleep.
Step 1: Lie down in bed on your back as if you were going to bed and put your electronics far away.
Step 2: Relax your whole body. Start by bringing your awareness to your forehead and just relax your muscles. Work your way down to your toes until you’ve released all the tension in your body.
Step 3: With your eyes closed, jaw loose and slightly separated, and your lips closed (if your nose isn’t clogged), begin to gently focus on your breathing.
Feel it come in the nostrils, down the back of your throat, feel it expand your belly, and then observe your breath as it comes out again. Repeat.
Step 4: Whenever you notice thoughts arise, gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Keep doing this until you fall asleep.
Don’t force the sleep, don’t be hard on yourself for thinking. Just relax, and bring your focus back to your breath.
The reason that we usually meditate sitting up is so we don’t fall asleep, so doing it lying down at night is a great way to fall asleep quickly and to sleep better and more restfully. As is using meditation for sleep.
If your mind is too chaotic to focus on your breath, focusing on one word or sound can be helpful, such as “Om.” Repeating “Om” in your mind until you can focus on your breath, or until you fall asleep, also works very well.
Other Tricks for Sleeping Better
Try turning off any blue and white lights for an hour or more before you go to bed. This means any kind of digital screen or light bulb that is not yellow.
Nowadays, there are many yellow lights that are environmentally friendly, so you don’t have to get the old inefficient light bulbs for yellow light anymore.
Candles also create a very calming and soothing environment in the evening, just be sure to blow them out before you go to sleep.
Not drinking caffeine after noon can help your circadian rhythm stay on track. Also drinking chamomile tea in the evening has been shown to have calming properties.
Creating a nightly sleep ritual has also been shown to help with sleep. This could be taking a bath, reading a good book, playing some relaxing music, lighting incense or using an essential oil diffuser, can all let the body know it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.
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