HOW TO USE MEDITATION FOR BETTER SLEEP: Turn Zen into ZZZs
Our lovely midlife brings with it a change in hormones and stressful circumstances that can make it difficult to get a full seven to nine hours of sleep. However, regular meditation has been shown to improve sleep quality in a number of different ways. By adding it into your daily routine, you can give yourself a much needed sleep boost.
Sleep Deprivation Harms Your Body and Mind
Maybe you put off bedtime for a few quiet hours to yourself or maybe the stress of managing a family makes it hard to close your eyes. Here's a rundown of the biggest issues that can arise when you get less than seven hours of sleep:
· Increased appetite and food cravings: When you’re tired, the brain releases more hunger hormone and less satiety hormone. At the same time, the area of the brain responsible for "rewards" gets increasing hits from high-fat sugary foods, significantly increasing your food cravings.
· Increase in negative emotions: Without enough sleep, the brain's emotional center overreacts with increased sensitivity to anything negative. At the same time, the logic center, which usually keeps emotions in check, becomes less active. Consequently, anxiety, stress, irritability, sadness, and anger can all increase.
· Delayed muscle repair: The body releases human growth hormone only during certain stages of the sleep cycle. If you don't spend enough time in that stage or you skip it altogether, your body can't fully heal from injury or even daily wear and tear.
Meditation’s Healing (Sleep) Powers
Stress, physical discomfort, and sometimes a medical condition can get in the way of adequate sleep. Meditation can counteract these issues by improving sleep quality and improving mental and emotional health.
While there are many meditative methods, one of the most effective for improving your sleep is called mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation focuses on centering your thoughts in the present moment rather than worrying about past mistakes or future stressful events. With practice, this type of meditation has even been shown to strengthen the connection between your brain’s emotion and logic centers to give you better emotional control.
Long-term meditative practitioners also develop the ability to trigger the body's relaxation response during their meditative sessions. This response lowers the body's heart rate and blood pressure, both of which enhance sleep.
We've all heard the term, "sleep like a baby." During youth, the human body sleeps more deeply and restores itself more fully. Meditation can restore the quality of your sleep cycle closer to that you experienced in your younger years. It's almost like turning back the sleep clock.
Using Meditation with Good Sleep Habits
For the best sleep, incorporate meditation along with good sleep habits into your daily routine. It might take some trial and error to find what works for you, but the rewards will be a full night’s rest and a more balanced you.
Make Time for Comfort
Your mattress should support your preferred sleep style and body weight. Most people of average size being comfortable on a medium-firm mattress. If night sweats and hot flashes plague you, try breathable sheets made of natural fibers like cotton and linen. Your bedroom itself should be kept cool (between 60 to 68 degrees) as well as dark and quiet.
Add Meditation to Your Bedtime Routine
Meditation can bring sleep benefits no matter what time of day you do it. But if you have a hard time falling asleep for any reason, ten minutes at bedtime can be beneficial. Be sure to perform each activity in your routine in the same order and try to start the routine around the same time each night
Bedtime Isn’t Just for Kids
Your body thrives off of consistency so set your bedtime and make it a priority. Make sure to factor in at least 15 to 30 minutes to fall asleep.
Sleep is necessary at all stages of life, but somehow here in the middle, it's easy to put your sleep health by the wayside. When you make sleep a priority, you're helping yourself to put your best self forward in every aspect of your life both personal and professional.
About our guest contributor: Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.