Welcome to Part 5 of my 5-part series on how to get a better night’s sleep.
In Part 5, we’ll cover why meditation is good for sleep, what the different kinds of meditations are for sleep, I’ll give some basic tips on how you can set yourself up, then I’ll recommend some good apps/ websites you can try out to find your favourite teacher and meditation style.
Check the other 4 parts that cover the following:
Why Is Meditation Good For Sleep?
Insomnia is often accompanied by a racing mind. Worrying and stressing out about “I need to get to sleep. I’m not asleep yet. Can I fall asleep faster? I hope tomorrow’s presentation goes well. If I don’t get enough sleep this presentation is going to bomb...”, etc.
I feel tense already just reading those racing thoughts!
A guided meditation can be useful to take your mind off looping thoughts, gently guiding you into focusing on something else.
Often, guided meditations for sleep start off with body sensing/ body awareness techniques, to help get you feeling into the physical sensations of the body, allowing you to relax. From there, you could be guided through various visualisations or breathing techniques, in order to help bring your mind to a completely different, more relaxed place.
This brings both mind and body into a more open, calm and relaxed space to invite sleep.
I have often fallen asleep in the middle of a guided meditation, not knowing when the session ended (oops!)
Finding Your Meditation
There are SO MANY different meditation styles, philosophies and techniques available. It can be overwhelming to a beginner, but the good news is - because we’re all wired differently, it’s great to have so many different tools to choose from. You just need to try them all and see what sticks.
Sometimes the teacher’s accent, music choice, recording quality, choice of words etc. can somehow feel jarring and if you’re “not feeling it”, that’s PERFECTLY OK. I’ve often stopped a recording after a few minutes and moved onto the next one.
All you need is some patience while you check out the various teachers/ styles/ apps until you find the few you like. Then stick to them!
Sleep Meditation Tips
A few things to bear in mind:
1. Airplane Mode/ Shut Down/ Wind Down Before You Start
To reduce any “faff” after your meditation is over, you might want to do everything you usually do before jumping into bed: brush your teeth, place water by your bedside table, turn your phone to airplane mode, set your alarm for the next morning, etc.
This way, right after the meditation session, all you need to do is just drift off to sleep, without having to actively think (and getting the mind going again).
2. Lay Down
One of the barriers to any kind of meditation is the sitting position. People often find it hard to sit cross-legged on the floor, or even sitting up straight in a chair.
The great thing about sleep meditations is - you can do them lying down! If your yoga mat is too hard, you can also lay down in your bed. Ideally, you’re listening to the guided instructions all the way till the end before you fall asleep. But if you end up falling asleep before it’s over, then score! You’re already in bed.
3. Put Earphones On
I’ve found it much easier to focus and concentrate on the voice guiding me through when all I’ve got is that voice in my ear.
Headphones or earphones help to reduce distractions from street sounds, room sounds - and when you’ve only got that voice directly in your ear, it helps to reduce how often your mind tends to wander to other thoughts.
4. Use a Blanket/ Place Something Over You
Placing something weighted over you helps to increase relaxation and decreases tension and stress (if it’s not more than 10% of your body weight). A duvet/ blanket can help. Or a weighted blanket like the Gravity Blanket can also help.
Studies have shown that using a weighted blanket increases the level of serotonin and melatonin as well as reduces cortisol (stress hormone).
What Kind of Meditations?
1. Yoga Nidra
If you’re searching for guided meditations for sleep, Yoga Nidra is one of the most accessible styles. It’s literally called “yogic sleep” or “conscious sleep”, where you’re laying down (usually on a yoga mat) and given verbal instructions to help move you through to the hypnagogic state, the transitional state from wakefulness to just before you fall asleep, and also between stages 1 and 2 of sleep, between the alpha and theta waves.
The iRest style of yoga nidra that I’m trained in has been researched well in helping anxiety and PTSD, to the point where it’s being used in the US military and prisons.
What I really like about this particular style is its very clear instructions for the Western mind, removing any Sanskrit language that could be confusing but still keeping to the fundamental Eastern philosophies and principles that work.
2. Meditations for Anxiety/ Peace/ Relaxation/ Sleep
Often, I’ve found guided meditations or visualisations for anxiety/ relaxation/ peace are very helpful for sleep as well - so you can use these words in your search terms, if none of the “sleep meditations” are doing it for you.
3. Guided Visualisations
If you’re someone who’s more visual by nature, you may enjoy a guided visualisation - where you’re being guided by a voice to somewhere in nature, a sky of clouds, a waterfall, or even visualising the chakra energy centres.
These may not be your traditional “guided meditations for sleep”, but are visualisations intended to bring about positive feelings, grounding and calm. Whatever works, I say!
Best Apps For Sleep Meditations
In a previous post, I wrote about where to start with meditation and listed some of my fave meditation apps.
For guided sleep, I love these apps:
Insight Timer has thousands of different meditations uploaded by different teachers of various styles. So if you don’t like the sound of someone’s voice, you can always hit “next”. ;) This is why I love and rate this higher than everyone’s go-to meditation app, Headspace (also listed below).
There’s a social element to the app too so you can see other people’s ratings of each session. You can also see who’s just completed which session - if it helps you find new teachers.
They have a special tab for “Sleep” meditations.
Some of my faves for sleep:
Richard Miller. iRest Yoga Nidra for Sleep (check out his other yoga nidra’s too)
33 Tibetan singing bowls for the times you’d rather listen to just sound and not a voice.
All free to access, but if you want it available offline or if you want to pause/ fast-forward/ rewind, you’ll need a subscription. Most teachers also have 10-day paid-for courses within the app.
Almost everyone has heard of, if not use, Headspace. It’s a really good, solid meditation app, but where it falls short is it only has one voice (Andy, the founder) guiding you through, and it’s largely based around what they call “insight” meditation (vipassana), or mindfulness (where you simply sit and observe - breath/ thoughts/ environment, etc).
You’re just “left to it”, which is the eventual aim of most meditations - to sit and “be” - but for many beginners, this can be a little too challenging to begin with.
If you’re not into his voice or that particular style of meditation, then you’re also not really going to enjoy this app.
HOWEVER! The app’s gone through quite a lot of changes since it launched and they now also have a “Sleep” tab with guided meditations, visualisations, ambient sounds and even guided exercises for sleep. You’ll need a subscription to access the Sleep tab though!
Calm calls itself the #1 app for meditation and sleep. With hundreds of guided meditations, visualisations, exercises, music and even “Sleep stories” - like a bedtime stories section.
It’s a free 7-day trial, after which it’s subscription-based.
YouTube has a huge library of all kinds of meditations - music only, voice-guided, binary beats… you name it, you’ll find it. The thing is - you’ll need to trawl through to find the tracks/ artists you like, so it can be a time-suck. But it’s free! :)
For more music rather than voice guided meditations, search SoundCloud for meditations and all kinds of uploads are available. Similar to YouTube, it’s hard to figure out which are good and which aren’t, but it’s especially good for ambient/ background music to any self-led/ unguided meditations.
Did I miss out on your fave apps or styles of meditations for sleep? Let me know in the comments below!
Make A Plan
What can help is the next time you find yourself going through a busy period and sleeplessness hits, pick just ONE thing you’ll do from this list every night… and by the end of a work-week, you would have 5 new and different things you would have put into practice to help you get a better night’s sleep.
I’ve created a handy sleep practices planner for you to do just that, with a section where you can also note down what results you got every night from what you’ve implemented.
It’s a simple, fast way for you to track how you’re doing with your sleep, coz if you don’t measure it, how can you tell for certain if you’ve made improvements or if your sleep’s gotten worse?
You can sign up to download it here:
This wraps up my 5-part Sleep Series, I hope you enjoyed it. Do save/ bookmark it for the next time you might be going through an insomniac bout. Also share it with anyone you know who may benefit from this.
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