Studies say meditation can help prepare us for a great night’s sleep – but put into practice in the real world, alongside stressful days in the office and a never-ending to-do list at home, can it really help our volunteers to catch those illusive 40 winks?
It’s predicted that between 60% and 90% of people with insomnia also suffer with depression. Mental health and sleep go together like bed and breakfasts, so how do we ensure we’re getting the best quality sleep possible?
Studies show that the answer could be as simple as regular meditation before bed. Meditation has been proven to help people fall asleep twice as quickly, enhance rapid eye movement (REM) sleep states, and preserve deep sleep. In fact, it apparently works so well that by the end of one insomnia and meditation trial, 60% of participants no longer qualified as insomniacs.
So, the science has spoken. But what happens when we trial out these findings in the real world? And, given meditation is about being present in the moment, would having an expectation stop us from truly experiencing the positive effects?
Happiful asked two volunteers to meditate before bed each night for a week to see if introducing some calm into their nightly routine could help them get a good night’s rest. Here’s how they got on:
This was a great way for me to make meditation a habit. Some days were easier than others to keep my mind calm, but I know this will improve with practise
I struggled with my first meditation – my mind kept flitting to things from the day. But I slept well.
I felt very tired and was nearly falling asleep during the meditation! I then slept straight through until morning.
Tonight I tried a different meditation – a visualisation one to encourage self-compassion. I slept OK.
My mind wandered a little during the meditation, and I was very tired again. Doing this a little earlier and getting to bed earlier is a new goal!
After a stressful conversation, this meditation was much needed and really helped to calm me.
Today I felt really excited about my meditation! It’s become an enjoyable part of my wind-down routine. I fell asleep easily and slept straight through.
It had a positive impact on my overall mood and the way I handled stressful situations. I don’t think it had a huge impact on my problem with waking early, but there is a slight improvement!
On the first night, I used breathing and mindfulness techniques, but it wasn’t a great start as I woke mega early!
I used the same techniques as the night before. I still woke early, but not as early as on day one.
Tonight, I really struggled to focus during meditation. I was just way too distracted and tired.
I wanted to try something new so added some meditation music. This really helped! Although I still woke up early the next day.
Tried the music again. I woke up in the night but went back to sleep without a struggle.
I completely forgot to meditate. So although I didn’t do it before bed, I did take a few minutes before I got up, and I felt better for it.
While the science can’t be denied, our volunteers struggled to reap the benefits of regular meditation when trying to slot it into their day-to-day routines during their first week. But they hope that with regular commitment they’ll see a natural improvement. And even if regular meditation doesn’t immediately improve sleep in the average person, the host of other benefits, including increased concentration, self-awareness, stress reduction, and even improved cognitive ageing, surely suggest that meditation is worth having a go at every now and then.