How Sleep Meditation Can Calm Your Nighttime Anxiety

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  • 02 Jun 2023
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Most of us have had sleep problems at some point in our lives. Unending thoughts can lead to stress and dissatisfaction, squandering our valuable downtime.

Are you ready to gradually change your sleep-related habitual thought so that you can alleviate nighttime anxiety and recuperate from your hectic day as nature intended?

In this essay, we'll obtain a compassionate knowledge of why your mind might have formed a reflex to think when it should be resting. You can learn how to replace that with a relaxation reflex that will allow you to benefit from tranquil sleep meditations.

It's obvious that you're not reading this because you have infinite nights of peaceful and easy sleep. You may have tried all of the sleep strategies, such as

– Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
– Having a cozy, dark, and slightly cold bedroom
– Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, sugar, exercise, and exposure to blue light in the evening

Despite this, you have difficulty falling or maintaining asleep, and you wake up weary. You can't turn off the never-ending loop of racing thoughts that create your nightly worry.

Sleep meditation can assist your mind in shifting from the sympathetic nervous system, which is essential for daily life, to the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows sleep. Developing a daily mindfulness meditation practice is a helpful first step in this direction.

Of course, medical issues can cause chronic insomnia, so seek expert assistance if your sleep disturbance persists.

1. When Your Day is Balanced

You slump into bed exhausted after a day with a hectic job schedule or major concerns.

Your sympathetic nervous system has been activated throughout the day. It is necessary in the fast-paced environment of your daily waking life. Its beneficial physiological changes include increased adrenaline output, respiration and heart rates, muscular contraction, and pupil dilation.

It's now time to sleep. Your parasympathetic nervous system takes over to restore your body to a condition of calm and slumber after all that high alertness and activity. Your heart rate and respiration rate slow down, and your muscles relax.


2. What Sleep Disturbance Looks Like

When these two autonomic nerve systems are out of sync, the following occurs:

As soon as your head strikes the pillow, your mind goes into overdrive, bombarding you with thoughts. It could be:

– Reliving the events of the day
– Regrets or rage about anything that occurred
– Making a list of what needs to happen tomorrow
– Make a list of potential future circumstances and how you plan to deal with them.
– Panic or despair in the face of global events
– Various types of anxiety

These unpleasant thoughts are accompanied by a surge of stress hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which race through your body, aggravating the feeling of stress.

3. Understanding Your Nighttime Anxiety

According to studies, stress is a leading cause of irregular sleep patterns that result in both short-term and chronic insomnia.

Yes, as you predicted, your thoughts are giving you worry and keeping you from sleeping. Your mind keeps you locked into the sympathetic nervous system, keeping you ready to fight or run. You're fighting the tigers of the day in your thoughts while lying flat on your back!

4. Why Can’t I Just Switch It Off?

You may have encountered intense emotions such as fear or pain earlier in your life. Your immature nervous system may have gone into the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn reactions in the absence of role models for processing or soothing these.

In order to make sense of your surroundings, you will have to rely heavily on thinking, planning, pondering, internalizing, and repeating occurrences.

All of these thought tactics were attempts to manage and gain control of your emotions rather than allowing them to move through you. They were the child's best efforts to alleviate the stress of an underdeveloped neurological system.

The Incidental Sleep Benefits of a Regular Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Now that you understand why your mind may be stuck in activity mode, it's important to find new ways to turn it off and activate the relaxation response, which allows you to go to sleep. This is where you learn to replace your thinking reflex with a relaxing reflex.

1. Making the Relaxation Response Automatic

In the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson created the expression "the relaxation response," which is a simple and apt description of the parasympathetic nervous system. He characterizes it as a profound physiological shift in the body that is diametrically opposed to the stress reaction.

He suggests practicing mindfulness throughout the day, ideally for 20 minutes, to establish a reflex that allows you to relax more readily.

This makes it easier to elicit a relaxation response when you can't sleep at night. As a defense against anxiety, this relaxation response will eventually replace your thinking reflex. The secret to this is reproduced in mindfulness meditation practice. Let's take a look at what's going on here.


2. Mindfulness Meditation – The Evidence Is In

As any teacher of mindfulness meditation courses will tell you, one of the many benefits of meditation is a noticeable improvement in one's sleeping habits.

According to studies, poor sleepers who participate in mindfulness programs have less insomnia, exhaustion, and sadness than those who only get sleep education.

The concepts you learn when practicing mindfulness meditation, you see, also apply to sleep. It permits the parasympathetic nervous system to engage, allowing for non-striving, letting go, and noticing thoughts rather than being controlled by them.

You connect with your body in the present moment during mindfulness meditation. Typically, you check your body for tension and actively release it through the breath, and you observe thoughts as they emerge without becoming entangled.

How a Guided Sleep Meditation Can Calm Your Nighttime Anxiety

Even if you haven't created a new relaxation reflex through your regular mindfulness meditation practice, you can reap the same advantages from a guided sleep meditation every night.

Studies on sleep meditation show that it improves sleep quality, rumination, and emotional regulation, reduces sleep issues in fibromyalgia patients, and has equivalent effects to sleep medicine.

1. What Is Sleep Meditation?

You're in for a treat: you lie down with your headphones or earbuds in and listen to a guided meditation, with someone's warm and comforting tone of voice leading you into a relaxed state. The background music will be of frequencies specially chosen to slow your brain into the drowsiness of alpha waves and trance.

Typically, the guided sleep meditation will:

– Include a visualization to help your mind transition into a yielding, drifting state.
– Recognise and observe what the busy-thinking mind is doing.
– Change it with something different.
– Bring attention back to the present moment, usually by using the breath or bodily awareness.
– Remind yourself to be aware of your ideas without allowing them to control you.

When random thoughts enter your head at night, you have a choice, just like in mindfulness meditation. You may either jump on every train of thought and ride it to its destination, or you can simply note, "Oh, there's another thought vying for my attention" and let it pass.

2. How to Choose a Sleep Meditation

Listen to any of the hundreds of free sleep meditations available through apps or on YouTube. Find one where the person's accent, tone of voice, music selection, and length make you feel at ease.

A YouTube search for "guided sleep meditations" yields a plethora of options for you to explore. Here's a selection from the hundreds of titles available:

– A spoken water sound sleep meditation
– In 12 minutes, you'll be asleep.
– Before going to bed, let go of any anxiety that has built up.
– A sleep consultation
– Meditation on the Glass Elevator.

Have fun trying any that appeal to you, but then pick just one and do it every night for at least a couple of weeks. As a result, the relaxation reflex will be activated as soon as it begins. With any luck, you won't hear anything after the first few minutes.

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