Sleep Care

Meditation to Promote Sleep

“Just relax.” You’ve probably said that to yourself a thousand times. But if you struggle with insomnia, you know that relaxing – especially

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at bedtime – is sometimes easier said than done. However, there is hope. Many people find that meditation promotes relaxation. And, the more relaxed you are, the better your chances of falling into a deep and restful sleep cycle. According to experts meditation not only lowers blood pressure, but also amps up your immune system and improves your ability to concentrate. Meditation also has been shown to improve both the physical and emotional responses to stress. In fact, one study found that people who meditated for six hours showed less physical distress when they were put into stressful situations. Although science hasn’t really pinpointed what happens in the meditating brain, a University of Wisconsin study showed that people experience increased electrical activity in regions of the left frontal lobe. This area tends to be more active in optimistic people. So the theory is that meditation improves your overall outlook on life – which in the end can benefit sleep practices. Mediation originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions and encourages people to learn to focus their attention. Today, for those interested in meditation, there is a wide range of practices, both religious and secular. But regardless of the practice selected, what meditation does is narrow the focus and shut out the external world while stilling the body. For meditation to be successful, it’s important that you learn to put your stresses, tensions and worries aside before you fall asleep. To succeed in doing this takes practice. Here are several meditation techniques to help you get started. Abdominal Breathing Focus on breathing from your abdomen paying close attention to each breath you take. Try closing your eyes, dimming the lights or listening to soft music if you are having trouble concentrating. Also, placing your hands on your stomach in order to feel the breaths come in and out helps get your mind off other things. When you are able to distract yourself from the stresses of life, you can bring yourself to a very different and calm place. In the end, this is where you need to be before going to sleep. Guided Imagery Imagining a calm scene like a walk on the beach, a stroll through the woods or a place in the clouds can help you wind down at night. The key is to select a scene that feels safe and comforting to you and then use your imagination to explore it. If you are having trouble getting started, try deep breathing and simple relaxation exercises first. According to experts, guided imagery works because the brain doesn’t always know the difference between what is imagined and what is real. Take for instance how you respond when you watch an action scene in a movie. Your body responds by tensing up and increasing adrenaline. The same is true for guided imagery. You can use your brain to control how your body responds. There also are imagery CDs on the market that can assist you if you don’t know where to begin. You’ll also want to be sure you are in a quiet room with dim lighting. Focal Point This technique involves finding a focal point such as an object, a mantra or even a sound machine. The goal is to bring your mind to the focal point and if your mind wanders bring it back to the focal point. Concentrate on pushing all other thoughts from your mind and concentrate only on the focal point. Using this technique 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime can help you unwind and relax, which will promote sleep. Prayer For those interested in a more spiritual approach to meditation, may find that meditative prayer is helpful in promoting sleep. During this type of prayer, the focus is on being thankful for things in your life rather than making requests for changes or things you are worried about. Take Control All meditation techniques, whether you use prayer, imagery or a focal point work best when done right before bed, in a quiet and dimly lit room. But you also may want to try them during stressful points throughout your day. If you can keep the stress you’re experiencing under control, rather than letting it control you, you will sleep better at night. Finally, remember that for any type of meditation to be successful, all other thoughts and distractions that drift through your mind must be pushed out. It’s not uncommon to get distracted and to lose focus. But as you practice you will find that the process becomes easier and easier.

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