Now is a Great Time to be Present

Among its many health benefits, meditation may improve your sleep quality, making it a great option to add to your sleep hygiene routine.

By Joe Castignani

What do the Beatles, Stephen Curry and I have in common? No, it’s not global fame or a world-class three-point shot (although I wouldn’t mind either!) We have all practiced meditation to better focus on the present and manage stress. Personally, I have found that meditation quiets my mind, settles my breathing, and helps me relax and not ruminate on the day’s events.

Meditation is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and is widely known for its many health benefits. Although studies confirm that meditation can reduce pain and help manage stress, it wasn’t until 1967 that meditation was proposed as an aid to better sleep. Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. Herbert Benson performed a late-night study and found that the meditation participants used 17% less oxygen, had lower heart rates, and produced brain waves that are associated with sleep.

Meditation also improves the quality of our sleep as an effective tool to calm the mind, reduce stress, manage pain, and relax the body. When we meditate, we focus on our breath and become more mindful of our thoughts and feelings. This increased awareness can help us recognize and let go of thoughts that can keep us awake at night.

Meditation also helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, also known as our circadian rhythm. By practicing meditation at the same time each day, we can signal to our body that it is time to relax and prepare for sleep. Meditation may improve sleep quality and make it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day.

How to meditate for better sleep

There are many meditation options to promote sleep. Here are a few ideas to get started.

  • Box breathing - While lying down, breathe in for a count of four. Hold your breath in for 4 seconds. Then breathe out to a count of four. Again, wait for 4 seconds before inhaling again.
  • Guided meditations - Check out online videos and smartphone apps for guided meditation techniques for sleep.
  • Relaxing sounds - Does the idea of gentle music or ocean waves sound appealing? Consider meditating while listening to calming sounds.
  • Body scan - Rest quietly with closed eyes and focus on your toes. Notice how they feel before moving your focus to your feet. Combined with deep breathing, continue moving your focus north to the next part of the body until you’ve reached the top of your head and your entire body scan is complete.
  • Body relaxation - Take the body scan meditation a step further. Starting at your toes, notice how they feel. Then tense your toe muscles  up. Finally, relax them as much as you can. Continue the process up your body to release tension.

What we have learned

Among its many health benefits, meditation may also improve your sleep quality. With few downsides, meditation is a great option to add to your sleep hygiene routine.

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Dream big, work hard, sleep ambitiously,

Joe Castignani