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Meditation’s Role in High-Quality Sleep

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With technology propelling people forward faster and faster, it has become harder to get a full night’s sleep. Meditation works to promote healthy sleep, including stress management, pain reduction, and rejuvenation of sleep quality.

Managing Stress with Meditation

Techniques, like mindfulness meditation, which help focus the mind on present sensations have an impressive effect on stress management and sleep. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to release stressful thoughts of the past or future by bringing your attention back to the present. The ability to stay present helps trigger the relaxation response, wherein the heart rate and blood pressure decrease as does stress.

Experienced meditation practitioners show physical changes in their brain that lead to emotional balance. Meditation causes the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for higher reasoning, to thicken. Regular practice also strengthens the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the emotional center of the brain called the amygdala. This connection and strengthening cause the amygdala to become less responsive to negative stimuli. The result—less stress and better sleep.

Meditation for Dealing with Chronic Pain

The ability to focus on present sensations also helps reduce pain perception. The focus on the immediate moment minimizes the anticipation of pain, which in turn lowers the amount of overall pain. Scientists conducting a study on pain perception at Manchester’s School of Translational Medicine found that regular meditative practitioners showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex, the same portion of the brain that helps reduce stress by bringing emotional balance. Participants seemed to let worries about pain pass through their minds without concentrating on them, which reduced their pain levels later on in the study. Less stress and less pain lead to better sleep.

Meditation for Deep Sleep

As you age, you spend less time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or slow wave sleep. This deep sleep stage is where the immune system recharges, muscles heal, and where the brain prunes and cleanses itself. Fatigue, achiness, and sleep problems are common with age-related changes. However, meditation increases the amount of time spent in slow wave sleep. Essentially, your sleep quality returns to a state that you enjoyed when you were younger. That leaves more time for healing and rejuvenating.

Bringing Meditation Into Your Routine

Stress reduction, pain reduction, and deeper sleep—who doesn’t want that? The benefits are there, but they do require a commitment to daily meditation. Some people like to roll out of bed and spend a few quiet minutes meditating before heading to work. But, when we’re talking about how meditation can help your sleep, it’s best to make meditation a regular part of your nightly routine. You can even fall asleep meditating if you have a comfortable mattress that supports your spinal alignment.

For beginners, there are many apps and videos available to guide you. Most methods involve finding a calm place, thought, or word, and letting it fill your mind. When your focus starts to wander, and it will try, gently focus on your calming thought. Try to bring your attention back to the present sensations in your body like the in and out movement of your breath. While 15 to 20 minutes is ideal, even if you only spend 10 minutes meditating, it can help stressful thoughts move away from your mind’s attention so you can get the restful sleep you need.

Learn more about mindfulness meditation and experience its benefits firsthand at our next Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course starting in September. Learn more here.

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