Even though it’s something we do every day, modern-day living in many countries do not embrace the importance of adequate sleep. Our chaotic lives don’t emphasize the fact that sleep is as vital for our health as regular exercise and having a balanced diet. This is why we need to make a conscious effort to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day.
If you’ve experienced less than 6 hours of sleep just one night and tried to function the next day, you know the repercussions a sleepless night can have on your body. Chronically missing out on a good night’s rest can increase the risk of disease and negatively impact our overall wellbeing.
But if sleep is so important, why do people face sleep problems?
More than one-third of adults in the world get less than 7 hours of sleep in 24 hours. In fact, insufficient sleep is a global public health epidemic across various age groups, often unrecognized and under-reported. The most common reasons for one to experience sleeping problems are daily tensions, hectic schedules and outward stressors. However, when these issues start occurring on a regular basis, they interfere with our day-to-day lives and indicate the beginning of a sleeping disorder.
There are several different types of sleep disorders one can face. People may have difficulty falling asleep and may experience tiredness throughout the day. This lack of sleep negatively impacts our energy, mood, concentration and health. In other cases, sleep disorders may be a symptom of different medical or mental health issues. If diagnosed and treated properly, these problems may eventually reduce or completely go away.
In the case of sleep disorders not caused by medical conditions, treatment includes medical treatments and a thorough lifestyle audit. An untreated sleep disorder can lead to health consequences as well as negatively affect your performance at work and elsewhere, cause strain in your day-to-day activities and add tensions to relationships.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of having a good night’s rest.
1. Improves productivity and concentration
Research has proven that those who suffer from sleep disorders have negative impacts on brain functions such as poor concentration, reduced productivity and lower cognition. In children, irregular sleep patterns directly affect behaviour and academic performance.
2. Better athletic performance
The adequate amount of sleep for regular adults is between 7 to 9 hours. For athletes, this number goes up to 10. Why athletes emphasise a healthy sleep cycle is because sleeping well can increase their performance intensity, provide them with more energy, better coordination, better brain function and faster speed. But you don’t need to be an athlete to reap the benefits of a good night’s rest.
3. Lowers risk of heart disease
One major factor for heart disease is increased blood pressure. Sleeping well at night decreases the pressure on your heart allows your body to regulate its blood pressure as the heart rate goes down at night. Those who are sleep-deprived naturally have an elevated heart rate.
4. Increases social and emotional intelligence
Those who don’t get adequate sleep at night have difficulty recognizing other people’s emotions and expressions. Studies have proven that a person’s emotional empathy reduces when they don’t get enough sleep.
5. Strengthens the immune system
We sleep every night to allow our body time to repair, regenerate and recover. The immune system works in a similar manner. Research shows that better sleep quality positivity impacts our immune system and fights off infection.
How does meditation help with sleeping problems?
If you have trouble sleeping at night, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But sleeping difficulties related to stress can be overcome through the practice of meditation. As a relaxation technique, meditation helps quiet the mind and body and promotes positive inner peace. When done before bed, meditation can alleviate insomnia and infuse overall calmness into our mind and body.
Studies have shown that meditation can improve your body’s relaxation response as well as control the autonomic nervous system, which reduces how easily you wake up. Meditation also increases melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, increases serotonin which is the precursor of melatonin and activates parts of the brain that control sleep.
How can you meditate for better sleep?
A simple practice that can be done anywhere and anytime, you don’t require any tools or equipment to meditate. However, building a healthy routine comes with consistency and practice. If you can get your stress levels under control during the day, you can sleep better at night. Below, find 4 meditation techniques for enhanced sleep that you can try tonight.
Focusing on breathing from the abdomen and being aware of the breaths that you take in and breathe out can relax your body during the day and at night as well. Some people find a dimly lit room to be helpful when practicing abdominal breathing. You can also close your eyes or listen to soft music as you focus on breathwork. Try lying in bed tonight with your hands placed on your belly. As you breathe in and breathe out, your hands will gently move with your stomach. Focus on this movement as a way to take your mind off of your busy thoughts.
Guided imagery meditation
Some people enjoy transporting themselves to a different place with the help of calming imagery. This can be particularly helpful before you wind down for the day. You can choose any imagery you like as long as it calms your body and mind. While clouds, the ocean and mountains are popular choices, you can focus on a memory that brings you peace or keep it general if you like. But make sure you pick a place that feels safe and comfortable and invites all your senses to explore it thoroughly.
To get you started, we have a wonderful video on guided meditation for better sleep.
Mindful meditation begins with looking at one thing at a time. This helps you slow down your mind and in turn, slow down your body. Focus on different aspects of your life before bed but always remember to let them pass. Letting go is the learning experience in mindful meditation. Start by removing all the distractions from the room, especially your phone and find a comfortable position. This type of practice may look different for many people. Some may prefer brain dumping in a journal 15 minutes before bed and then moving on to breathwork while some may prefer lying in the dark and focusing on their body movements.
Our 5-minute deep meditation music can set the tone for a wonderful mindful meditation session.
A little eye strain relaxes your body, especially if you gaze upwards while lying in bed. Then take a deep abdominal breath and hold it in, relaxing your body as you let it go. You can imagine yourself heading down a flight of stairs or a gentle hill as you count down from 10 or 20. With each number you climb lower, exhaling with every imaginary step.