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How sleep meditation can calm your nighttime anxiety

How sleep meditation can calm your nighttime anxiety

Sleep problems are something that most of us have encountered at some point in our lives. Relentless thoughts can lead to stress and frustration that wastes precious rest time.

Are you willing to gently change your sleep habits so that you can ease nighttime anxiety?

In this article, we will gain a compassionate understanding of why your mind may have developed a reflex for thinking when it’s supposed to be resting. Learn how to replace this with a reflex to relaxation that will enable you to benefit from calming sleep meditations.

How meditation can help you sleep better at night

It’s clear that you’re not reading this article because you enjoy endless nights of calm and easy sleep. You might have tried all of the tips to get good sleep.

  • Regular sleep is important
  • A bedroom that is dark and comfortable.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar.[1]

Even with all of this, you still struggle to fall asleep. You can’t switch off the endless loop of busy thoughts that cause your nighttime anxiety.

Meditation can help you switch your mind from one state to another. Sympathetic nervous system This is essential for your daily life. Parasympathetic nervous systems This allows you to sleep. This is why it is important to establish a daily mindfulness meditation routine.

You should seek professional help if you have persistent insomnia.

1. A Balanced Day

You’re exhausted after a long day of work or dealing with big problems.

Your sympathetic nervous systems has been activated throughout the day. It is essential in your busy daily life. It has beneficial physiological effects such as increased adrenaline secretion and breathing, heart rates, contractions of muscles, dilation of pupils, and heart rate increases.[2]

Now it’s time for sleep. Parasympathetic nervous systems restore calm and rest to your body by counterbalancing all the activity and alertness. Your heart rate, breathing rate, and muscles relax.

2. What does sleep disturbance look like?

When these two autonomic nervous systems are out of balance, here’s what happens:

As soon as your head hits the pillow, like a reflexive action, your mind kicks in with a barrage of relentless thinking. It could be:

  • Rehashing the day’s experiences
  • Anger and regrets over something that has happened
  • Identify what must happen tomorrow
  • Creation of possible future scenarios and how you’ll deal with those
  • Panic or despair at the world’s events
  • There are many forms of worry

Stress hormones and chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline can also be triggered by these thoughts, causing stress to worsen.

Action Item

Take Action

Keep a notepad near your bed: Write down any thoughts that wander. This brain-dumping technique can be used to reduce your worries and help you focus on getting sleep.

3. Understanding Your Nighttime Anxiety

Research has shown that stress is the leading cause of insomnia, both chronic and short-term.[3]

As you suspect, your thoughts are causing anxiety and preventing you sleeping. Your mind is glued to the sympathetic nervous system. It keeps you alert and ready for action. Your mind is fighting the tigers of today, but it’s all in your head. You can even lie flat on your back while you do this!

4. Why Can’t I Just Switch It Off?

In a younger stage of your life you might have experienced intense emotions like fear or pain. Your undeveloped nervous system might have reacted to these emotions by going into fight, flight or freeze mode.

This will have required a high level of thinking, planning and internalizing in order to make sense.

These thought strategies were designed to control your emotions rather than letting them flow through you. They were the child’s best attempts to soothe the overwhelm of an undeveloped nervous system.

Consecutive Sleep Benefits from Regular Mindfulness Meditation

Now that you understand why your mind may be locked into action mode, it’s time to find new ways of switching that off and activating the relaxation response that allows you to drift off into sleep. Here’s where you learn to replace the reflex for thinking with a reflex for relaxation.

1. The Relaxation Response can be made automatic

In the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson coined the phrase “the relaxation response,” a simple and fitting description of the parasympathetic nervous system. He describes it as a deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response.

He suggests that you keep your mind open to the possibility of experiencing a feeling of relaxation by practicing mindfulness for at least 20 minutes each day.[4]

That way, it’s easier to evoke the relaxation response at night when you can’t sleep. Over time, the reflex for relaxation can replace your reflex for thinking and become a defense against anxiety. This is possible by practicing mindfulness meditation. Let’s see what’s happening here.

2. Mindfulness Meditation – The Evidence Is In

As any teacher of mindfulness meditation courses will tell you, there are always people who report a marked improvement in their sleeping habits as one of the benefits of meditation.

Studies show that people who are poor at sleeping have less difficulty falling asleep, more fatigue, and more depression when they engage in mindfulness programs than those who only learn about sleep education.

It is clear that the same principles that are taught when you practice mindfulness meditation apply to sleep. This allows the parasympathetic nervous systems to be activated, non-strivingly, letting go and noticing thoughts rather than being controlled by them.[5]

You can connect with your body through mindfulness meditation. By using your breath, you can scan your body for tension, then consciously release it. You also notice thoughts as they arise, without becoming involved.

Guided sleep meditation can calm your nighttime anxiety

Even if you haven’t developed a new reflex for relaxation through your daily practice of mindfulness meditation, you can gain the same benefits from a guided sleep meditation every night.

Studies on sleep meditation have shown that it can improve sleep quality, emotional regulation, and rumination, as well as lessening the symptoms of fibromyalgia. These effects are comparable to those of sleeping medication.[6]

1. What Is Sleep Meditation?

A guided sleep meditation will mirror the natural surrender into the rest and recovery phase that you’ve been so needing. You’re in for a treat. Here’s what that looks like:

You lie down with your headphones on or your earbuds in and listen to a guided meditation, with someone’s warm and comforting tone of voice leading you into a relaxed state. Your brain will drift into sleep by the use of specially selected frequencies.

Guided sleep meditation is usually:

  • To help your mind drift into the surrendering state, you can include a visualization
  • Acknowledge and notice what’s happening with the busy-thinking mind
  • You can replace it with something else
  • Focus your attention on the present moment, often through the breath or body awareness.
  • Remember to be aware of any thoughts you have without being controlled by them

You have two options when random thoughts pop up in your head at night. You can jump on every train of thought and follow it to its final destination, or you can simply notice, “oh, there’s another thought seeking my attention” and watch it go by.

Action Item

Take Action

Find a pair of headphones and take them with you. Online guided meditation for sleep. You can create your own. Find some soothing music and write a simple script.

2. How to choose a sleep meditation

You can listen to hundreds of free meditations via apps and Youtube. Find one where the person’s accent, tone of voice, music choice, and length feel comforting to you.

A search on Youtube for “guided sleep meditations” offers a vast range of options for you to try. Here’s a sample from the hundreds of titles:

  • A spoken sleep meditation using water sound
  • You will fall asleep in just 12 minutes
  • Be free from anxiety before you go to sleep
  • Clear your mind of clutter
  • A sleep talk-down
  • Meditation with The Glass Elevator

You can have fun with any, but you should pick one to keep it going for at least two weeks. The reflex for relaxation will start to activate as soon as the sound starts. In time, with any luck, you won’t even hear anything past the first few minutes.

More examples are available here: 20 Best Guided Night Meditations To Treat Insomnia

Final Thoughts

Understanding your nighttime anxiety and how it affects your sleep can help you reset your mental habits so that you can take advantage of all the wonderful meditations available. The habitual reaction of rushing to your busy mind can be replaced with a reflex for relaxation, which will help you relax and recover the way nature intended.

Photo credit to the featured photo: Polina Koleva via pexels.com

Refer to

[1] Healthline: 17 Proven Tips for Better Sleep at Night
[2] NIH: Anatomy and Autonomic Nervous System
[3] HeartMath: A Solution to Sleeplessness
[4] Harvard Health Publishing: Mindfulness meditation improves sleep and fights insomnia
[5] Sleep Help Foundation:  Mindfulness and sleep
[6] Sleep Foundation: Meditation can treat insomnia

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