Insomnia, or the inability to fall asleep fast and stay asleep at night, can cause all sorts of physical and mental health problems. It affects cognition and the body’s ability to repair and heal itself, defend against illnesses and infection, and eliminate toxins. Insomniacs feel fatigued and less alert during the day, so they are often less productive than those who are getting enough sleep.
Insomniacs cope with their condition by getting prescription pills and practicing sleep hygiene. Both are effective, but often only to a degree. What’s left for insomniacs who can’t get enough rest? One answer is sleep meditation.
Yogic Sleep: What Is It, Exactly?
The brain is always active and is only less active during non-REM sleep. In fact, many contend with rapid, random thoughts even though they’re already in bed. Persistent mental buzz is exhausting because while the body craves sleep, the brain, being a powerful organ, doesn’t allow it.
Here’s where sleep meditation or yogic sleep comes in. Marie Claire UK defines it as the practice of relaxing the body and keeping the mind aware while drifting between wakefulness and sleep. It is very similar to mindfulness meditation, only its goal is to calm the mind to induce sleep instead of clearing it of distractions to boost productivity.
Meditation, in general, can help improve sleep. Subject matter experts at Harvard Medical School and the National Sleep Foundation agree, too, that it is a sound alternative for insomniacs who rely on prescription pills and sleep hygiene training.
On Prescriptions and Medical Conditions
Sleeping pills are safe to use as long as people follow a doctor’s prescription. It’s when an insomniac takes several regular medications, however, that sleeping pills might be ineffective or even dangerous to the health. For these reasons, doctors first rule out existing conditions that could be behind the patient’s insomnia.
Prescription sleeping pills help to start sleep, but they don’t address the root of insomnia. The causes can be psychiatric or medical. And while sleeping pills can be helpful, patients might experience better sleep if they get treatment for depression, anxiety, or underlying health conditions. Should they still need a stimulus for sleep, they can always explore meditation. Studies show that it helps with depression and eases symptoms of various illnesses.
Sleep Hygiene with Meditation
Sleep hygiene refers to healthy habits and routines that induce sleep. Examples are drinking milk, taking a warm bath, exercising, and light snacking. Establishing a routine just before bedtime can help condition the mind to wind down and prepare to go to sleep. Certain daytime habits like napping for at most 30 minutes and avoiding coffee, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime can also help ensure uninterrupted sleep.
People with insomnia can compound the positive effect of sleep hygiene with meditation in their routines. Meditating in the morning can reduce daytime impairment due to sleepiness. They can be more productive, which reduces stress and worrisome thoughts at night. In the evening, sleep meditation can further quiet the mind and gradually let sleepiness take over.
Through meditation, people with insomnia can forego prescriptions and reinforce their sleep hygiene practices to experience longer and more satisfying sleep.