What to Know About Meditation to Help You Sleep Better

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on March 05, 2024
3 min read

For thousands of years, people have practiced meditation for spiritual awakening and awareness, but that is not meditation’s only benefit. Studies show that it helps to deepen sleep, even in people who do not have sleep issues.

Fortunately, meditation is free, and it doesn’t require equipment. You can also do it nearly anywhere.

Whether you have regular insomnia or just need some help adjusting to a new sleep schedule, meditation before sleep may have benefits. Researchers have a few theories about why meditation may help you sleep better:

Pain reduction. Meditating may reduce pain. A preliminary study showed that meditation helps with pain relief without engaging the brain's naturally occurring opioid chemicals.

Another study on people with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, showed that meditation reduced their anger and worry about their condition.

If chronic pain keeps you awake at night, developing a meditation practice can help.

Mental health. Doing meditation for insomnia can help relieve anxiety, depression, and stress, helping you to sleep better. A review of over 200 studies showed that meditation can have a positive effect on mental health.

Preparing the body for sleep. Meditation slows down your heart rate and lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, two things that happen naturally when you sleep. Meditation can also cause you to have theta brainwaves, the same state your brain enters when you are falling asleep.

When you prepare to meditate, make sure that you are in a comfortable position and that you are unlikely to be disturbed. Put your phone on silent and turn off the TV.

There are many ways to meditate. You can do it however you'd like. When most people meditate, they sit comfortably or lie down, close their eyes, and try to clear their minds. If you are having trouble getting started, look for meditation classes or join a local group meditation.

There's no set amount of time required to meditate. You can try it for just a few minutes, or do it for an hour. However, research does show that meditating for between 10 and 30 minutes may be more effective for helping sleep.

Meditation is all about letting go of judgment. Thoughts may come into your head as you try to relax. Simply observe them without judgment. Notice them, and allow them to fade away as you focus on your meditation.

There are many ways you can meditate for sleep including:

  • Box breathing. While lying down, breathe in for a count of four. Then breathe out while counting to four again.
  • Guided meditations. There are apps for your phone and videos online that offer guided meditations. These recordings are on different topics and use different techniques. Find one that you like and give it a try.
  • Calming sounds. Some people enjoy meditating while listening to calming music or natural sounds like rain or ocean waves.
  • Body scan meditation. Without moving or opening your eyes, focus on your toes. Notice how they feel before moving up to the next body part. Continue doing this until you've done your whole body up to your fingertips and top of your head.
  • Body relaxation meditation. This is very similar to a body scan meditation. Starting at your toes, notice how they feel. Then tense them up. Finally, relax them as much as you can. Do the same for your whole body.

Meditation is considered to be very safe. However, you should talk to your doctor before beginning a meditation practice if you have a history of mental illness. In rare cases, meditation can worsen your symptoms.

Meditation should not be used in place of medical care. If you have serious insomnia, you can try meditation to help, but you should also talk to your doctor about other things that might help you sleep better.

Meditation doesn't work for everyone to improve sleep. There are also many meditation types. So, it may take some trial and error to find the one that works for you.