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How meditation can improve your sleep

By The Health News Team | October 30, 2019
How meditation can improve your sleep

A nutritious diet, regular exercise and sleep — all are components of a healthy life. However, while you can usually determine what you eat and how often you exercise, you aren’t always in control of how much sleep you get. Whether due to stress-based insomnia, sleep disorders, travel, an overbooked schedule or family responsibilities, getting quality sleep is a challenge for many.

However, sleep plays an important role in keeping your mind and body healthy. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, getting adequate sleep offers many benefits, such as:

  • Boosted immunity

  • Improved ability to manage your weight

  • Decreased risk for serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease

  • Decreased risk for developing mental health conditions

  • Reduced stress

  • Improved mood

  • Improved cognitive abilities

  • Increased ability to make good decisions and avoid injuries

While many may turn to over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills in hopes of managing their sleep deprivation, these drugs can have dangerous side effects and risks. Sooze Flery, MS, an emotional wellness coach with the Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion, recommends a better way to get a good night’s sleep: meditation.

“I believe meditation as a daily practice will promote better sleep quality over time,” Flery says. “The time frame is different for everyone’s personal practice. However, as you meditate more often, it is possible to train the mind to slow down, which stops the majority of racing thoughts you might have as you are trying to sleep.”

Flery answers some of the top questions about how meditation can help you get the sleep you need.

What can meditation offer that other sleep aids don’t?
Meditation prompts the parasympathetic nervous system into “rest and digest” mode. It lowers the blood pressure, produces fewer stress hormones and tells the limbic, or emotional, brain to shut down the “fight or flight” response. Meditation has little to no side effects and is budget-friendly. Anyone can practice meditation and it can be done in a space that is comfortable to each person.

Does meditation help with both falling and staying asleep?
It depends on each individual. The subjective amount of stress that is keeping you from falling asleep or staying asleep will differ due to the intensity. A person’s habits prior to going to bed — use of alcohol, stimulation from electronics, medications taken — also affect falling and staying asleep with or without meditation.

What is a simple meditation practice for improved sleep?

  • Find a comfortable position sitting up or laying down and gently allow your eyes to shut.

  • Breathe in through your nostrils and slightly hold your breath, then release it through your nostrils or mouth. Do this for a few breaths as you start to feel your body relax.

  • Do a brief scan of your body and see if there is any place that you are holding tension, such as the neck, shoulders, head, back or stomach.

  • Focus on the area; calmly and kindly let the tension know it is free to release itself and move out of your body through the bottom of your feet.

  • Continue until you feel the tension lifting.

  • Keep breathing.

  • As thoughts come to mind, acknowledge them and let them pass.

  • If you are sitting up in bed, start to find a comfortable position lying flat.

  • Take in a few more breaths through your nostrils and tell yourself you are ready to have a calm and peaceful night’s sleep.

The goal is to meditate for 20 minutes. However, if you are new to meditation, start at 5 or 10 minutes and gradually work your way to 20.
Along with meditation, what are other good sleep practices?

  • Try not to fall asleep with the TV on.

  • Turn off all electronics, unless you need your phone for your alarm or you are using a meditation app.

  • Keep the lights off or low.

  • Spray your pillow or the air around your bed with lavender.

  • Use an eye mask or ear plugs to shut out noise and light, if necessary.

Signs of a serious sleep disorder include snoring or erratic breathing during sleep, sleepwalking or taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep several nights each week. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your sleep and how it might be affecting your physical and mental health. Sharp HealthCare's Sleep Disorders Centers offer treatments for a wide variety of sleep challenges.

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