Meditation for Insomnia
Meditation is a centuries-old way of calming the mind and relaxing the body that can help those who suffer from insomnia. Meditation produces deep relaxation, which can reduce sleeping difficulties. Research indicates that the active process of meditation causes the body to “unwind” and calms the mind, enabling you to fall into a peaceful state of sleep.
How is Meditation used to treat Insomnia?
Insomnia is a disorder that results in difficulty sleeping. The symptoms of insomnia may present themselves as difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or early waking from sleep. Insomnia causes a person to feel that sleep is inadequate or is not refreshing. Emotional problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression are often to blame for a lack of revitalizing sleep.
Insomnia can be a primary disorder in itself, or it can be a symptom of another disorder. In the latter case, it is called secondary insomnia. Either way, insomnia results in disturbed sleep and causes fatigue and sleep deprivation for the person suffering from it.
Meditation is used to treat insomnia because meditation techniques relax the body and mind and allow sleep to overtake a person. It can be used in addition to other conventional treatments, but is also effective when used alone. Meditation is easy and is available to everyone. It should be tried before using other sleep aids because it has no lasting side effects. Meditation can clear away the information overload that people carry with them from everyday life.
Getting rid of chronic insomnia will probably take some time and require long-term changes to bedtime habits. Simply meditating when a person has not changed other sleep depriving habits may not result in the desired sleep. A person should cutback on caffeine, limit alcohol intake, and turn off the T.V. or computer at least an hour before bedtime because these are all stimulants; and stimulants, of course, inhibit relaxation. The purpose of meditation is to relax the body and mind.
How Should I Meditate to Relieve Insomnia?
The simple act of “counting sheep” can be considered a form of meditation. Taking time to “count your blessings” or think about the good things that happened during the day after lying down in bed at night can also be a form of meditating. The trick is to focus on something relaxing and pleasant rather than simply recounting all the events of the day.
Meditation is simple. Sometimes people try to make it too complicated, which can have the opposite effect of relaxation and create more stress at bedtime. The benefits of meditation will come with natural relaxation; mediation should not be forced.
Some experts recommend meditating about 20 minutes before going to bed, while others recommend meditating in bed. Both techniques can work well and the effects can be the same. It just depends on what the meditating person prefers.
Meditation Techniques for Insomnia
Yoga is a gentle exercise that focuses on the use of meditation and position of the body. There are some relaxing stretches that can be done in bed that can help in easing insomnia.
- Happy baby pose: While lying on the back, bring the knees up to the chest. Grasp the outsides of flexed feet with the hands and pull the knees out toward the armpits. This releases the hips and low back. It leaves the body looser and more relaxed.
- Goddess pose: Sit with the knees bent and open to the sides toward the floor. The soles of the feet touch. Lie back on the floor, keeping the soles of the feet together and place the arms at the sides of the body. This opens the groin and relaxes the inner leg where tension is held.
- Corpse pose: Lie on the back, allowing the arms and legs to naturally roll outward. Relax the entire body become aware of your natural breath. This relaxes the entire body one part at a time, moving from the toes all the way to the head.
Transcendental meditation is a technique that focuses on repeating a mantra or chosen word. This can be done either in bed or out of bed. It releases the mind from stress, allowing the body to relax.
- Find a focal point for the meditation, a word or phrase of your choice that can be said over and over in the mind and creates calm rather than stress.
- When the mind wanders, bring it firmly but gently back to the focal point.
Visualization is focusing on something that is relaxing and calming. Some people find that thinking about sitting beside a stream or under a tree on a mountain are pleasant things to visualize. This supports a feeling of calm and relaxes the body and mind.
- Think of something that is relaxing and calming.
- Concentrate on feeling the coolness of a soft breeze or smelling the fragrance of a favorite flower or remembering something soothing from childhood.
Guided imagery is another form of meditation that can help a person sleep. It combines meditation with relaxation and hypnosis. It is a technique that follows a guided meditation to a state of relaxation. This requires either a guided imagery therapist or a recording to direct the meditation.
- This technique can be done while lying in bed or while seated. It should be done in a quiet room where focus and concentration can be achieved.
- A meditation teacher that specializes in guided imagery, or a CD player with a guided imagery recording, will guide the person through relaxation exercises and visualization.
Precautions During Meditation
There are no unsafe side effects to using meditation for insomnia. Although it is a rare side effect, meditation may make some people more alert and thereby make it harder to fall asleep. Consider seeking the formal instruction of a meditation teacher to advance your practice and overcome your insomnia.
American Association of Physicians Practicing the Transcendental Meditation Program
Learning Meditation: a website offering guidance for beginning a meditation practice.
How to Meditate: a website offering practical information about Buddhist meditation.
The World Wide Online Meditation Center: a website offering meditation instruction online.
Bennet-Goleman, Tara. Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind can Heal the Heart. New York: Harmony Books, 2001.
Bien, Thomas and Beverly. Finding the Center Within: the Healing Way of Mindfulness Meditation. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.
Clark, Rosemary. The Everything Meditation Book: Learn to Relax, Eliminate Stress, and Bring Inner Peace into Your Life. Avon, Mass.: Adams Media Corp. 2003
Levy, Jodi. The Healing Handbook: A Beginner’s Guide and Journal to Meditation. New York, N.Y.: Pocket Books, 1999
Santorelli, Saki. Heal Thyself: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine. New York: Bell Tower. 1999.