A regular bedtime meditation practice can be an enjoyable way to end the day and a powerful tool for improving the quality of your sleep, reducing stress, calming anxiety and letting go of negative thoughts. But it’s not always easy to get into that meditative state when you are tired or stressed out from a long, busy day of work. Thankfully, there are many great tips and simple techniques to help make meditation before bed an easy and joyful part of your evening ritual.
Why you should practice meditation before bed
An evening meditation practice is a great way to improve your health, wind down from your day, let go of the worries and stresses of work, and rejuvenate your body and mind. Practicing meditation in the evening is best for people who can’t fit a practice in during the morning or afternoon hours because they have too much going on at home or at their jobs. It’s also ideal if you’re trying to fall asleep quickly after dinner so you don’t keep waking up throughout the night. If you do find yourself struggling with insomnia, practicing meditation before bed will help you fall asleep quickly and improve the quality of your sleep.
Benefits of bedtime meditation
Meditation is a great way to relax after a long day. It trains your brain to recognize that this new habit means moving towards sleep time, and it is an easy way to send your brain and body signals that the day is ending and that it’s time to get some relaxation and rest.
Meditation can help you throughout your day, not just at bedtime. It can help you deal with stress, anxiety, and other challenges throughout your day. Meditation helps you to be more aware of the moment, and therefore more present, even when you are not meditating.
Meditation has been proven to improve overall health and wellness. According to research, regular practitioners experience lower blood pressure, improved immune function, reduced stress levels, increased self-confidence, better moods, and greater ability to cope with pain than non-practitioners.
In addition, studies show that meditation helps reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. There have been over 40 research studies that have found that those who practiced daily meditation and mindfulness had significantly fewer depressive episodes compared to those who didn’t. Other studies suggest that meditation reduces inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease and diabetes.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who practiced mindfulness meditation were more likely to see an improvement in sleep quality than those in a sleep education control group. Researchers found that those who completed a 2 hour mindfulness awareness program had less difficulty falling asleep, less fatigue and depression, and better quality of life at the end of the 6-week program.
How does meditation help you sleep?
When you meditate, a number of physiological changes occur. Some of these changes help you relax and improve your ability to fall asleep. Others help you regulate your autonomic nervous system, reducing how easily you’ll be awakened. According to researchers, meditation likely helps by increasing serotonin and the sleep hormone melatonin. It also activates parts of the brain that regulate sleep and reduce heart rate, blood pressure and other body functions.
How to start meditating before bed
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed by noise, light or other people. You may find that meditating at night when there is less activity around you. If possible, try to find somewhere with no distractions at all so you don’t have to worry about being interrupted while trying to relax.
- Turn off any phones or devices which might disturb you. This will allow you to focus on yourself without having to deal with anything else.
- Try using some relaxing music in the background such as nature sounds like raindrops falling onto water or waves crashing against rocks. It doesn’t matter what type of music is used just as long as it helps you calm down and let go of everything around you. You could even use headphones if needed.
- Choose a comfortable position. Sitting cross-legged on the floor works well because it allows you to sit comfortably without having to strain yourself too much. However, some people prefer lying down in their beds as they fall asleep. Others like to sit in a chair. Whatever feels right for you will probably feel more relaxing and restful.
- Close your eyes or soften your gaze. This step isn’t essential, but it’s helpful to clear your mind of any thoughts or visual distractions.
- Focus on one thing only. The key here is to keep your attention locked on one point of focus—it doesn’t matter what—rather than being distracted by thoughts or external stimuli such as sounds or lights.
- Breathe slowly and deeply. Don’t force or create tension with your breath, but work on using a full diaphragmatic breathing pattern or other calming pranayama while you meditate. Breathe through your nose and let air flow freely into your lungs.
The best bedtime meditation techniques
Choosing a bedtime meditation method can be tricky. There are many options available, but you may find only one or two will be effective for you. Not sure where to start? Take our yoga quiz: What’s the Best Meditation Practice for You? If you try several and none seem to help, consider consulting a meditation expert or a certified yoga instructor for expert advice. As far as choosing a specific form of meditation goes, here are my recommendations based on the level of difficulty and the calming effect of the practice.
- Mindfulness Meditation
This type of meditation focuses on being aware of what is happening in each moment without judgment or attachment. Simply focus on the feelings and sensations that are arising in the present moment. If thoughts come to mind, gently acknowledge them, but don’t let them distract from focusing on your breath and body.
- Breath Focused Meditation
This type of meditation focuses on using mindful, slow, deep breathing as a way to relax, feel calm, and be focused. This basic yogic meditation practice can be done anywhere, anytime. Feel free to use this technique as you lay in bed or whenever you need to de-stress or to clear away negative energy that builds up over the course of the day.
- Guided Meditation
These 10 evening guided meditations will take you through various stages of relaxation as they guide you through deep breathing and other calming exercises. They’re perfect for beginners who want to learn how to relax with ease.
- Mantra Chanting
A mantra is sound repeated over and over again, like a prayer. There are many types of mantras and their repetition helps strengthen concentration, focus, and memory. You can also try repeating your chosen mantra silently to yourself when trying to fall asleep.
- Deep Breathing Exercises
Yoga has specific pranayama or breathing exercises that are calming and soothing to the body and mind. These can be used as evening meditation practice by maintaining your focus on the sensation of breath. Check out our list of 8 Yoga Breathing Techniques for Sleep.
- Yoga Nidra
This form of yoga involves lying still in savasana position. Your goal here is to clear away negative energy and stress so you can enter deeper states of consciousness. To do this, concentrate on your breathing and progressively relax each body part. It is best to use a yoga nidra recording like these YouTube videos.
This technique uses the imagination of colors, sounds, scents, feelings—anything that makes you happy, peaceful, and at ease. The goal is to fully immerse yourself in your imaginative experience.
Tips for a successful bedtime meditation
- Start simple. Once you decide to start learning meditation, make sure you pick something simple first. Don’t worry about memorizing complicated phrases or following complex instructions. Instead, stick to basic concepts like mindfulness or focusing on your breath. Consider guided meditations—these are audio recordings where someone guides you through various techniques. Error on the side of making it as easy as possible to get started.
- Start small. Try just 5 minutes per day. As you become familiar with this process, increase the length of time until eventually you reach 20 minutes. Just start off slow and build up from there.
- When you feel ready, add another calming activity into your nightly routine. Maybe you’d like to do yoga after your session of deep relaxation? Or perhaps you enjoy listening to music while you relax? Whatever works for you is fine. Just remember to always end your sessions with a few moments of silence so you can fully absorb all the positive effects of your meditation.
- Remember, no matter what kind of meditation you choose, the key is consistency. At the same time, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session or two.
- Schedule a time. Make sure you set aside enough time each evening so that you won’t feel rushed or forget to practice. This will also give you more motivation to integrate it into a bedtime routine.
- Create a ritual. Rituals often serve as powerful tools for relaxation because they create order and structure within our lives. They provide us with something we look forward to doing and helps us unwind at the end of the day. Consider lighting candles, burning incense, ringing a bell or gong, or infusing a calming essential oil before you sit. Make all of your meditation preparations a mindful ritual to prime your mind for introspection.
- Know what works best for you. There’s no one-size-fits all approach to getting into the zone of deep relaxation. Some people find they’re more relaxed with music playing in the background, while others prefer silence or white noise from their headphones. Find out which method feels most comfortable for you and incorporate it into your practice.
- If you have poor sleep habits, don’t expect to be able to get better simply by adding an hour of meditation to your daily schedule. You need to change some other aspects of your lifestyle if you want to improve how much restorative power your body receives at night. Start slowly and pay attention to any changes you notice. Over time, you should experience improved quality of sleep.
Meditating at night is a great way to wind down after the day. It can help you fall asleep faster, improve quality of sleep, reduce anxiety, depression, and pain levels. There are many different techniques you can explore to find what works best for your personality and experience. All in all, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t try out a few minutes of meditation at the end of your day.
Please note: yoga and meditation are not substitutes for proper medical care. If you have chronic insomnia or a sleep disorder, please consult with a licensed medical professional.