Can meditation help improve sleep?
Updated: Nov 3
If you have trouble getting to sleep at night then you’re not alone. 35-50% of adults report some insomnia symptoms. There is a growing interest in mindfulness meditation for assisting with sleep. But can meditation really help with sleep?
Meditation can lower stress and calm your mind which may make it easier to fall asleep. In a 2019 study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, researchers reviewed the results of 18 randomised controlled trials, totalling 1654 participants, to analyse the impact of mindfulness meditation on adults with moderate sleep issues. They surmised that it has potential for treating sleep disturbances. Although, these results are far from conclusive; the study acknowledges that further research needs to be done.
Whilst difficulty sleeping can be related to stress, in many cases stress is actually caused by lack of sleep. It's a bit of a "chicken or the egg" scenario. Our sleep timing is part of a much larger system, the circadian rhythm, which if disrupted, can make it difficult to fall asleep. While we tend to blame an over-active mind, the source of the problem may be a disrupted circadian rhythm. Check out these 4 habits to support a healthy circadian rhythm.
Like learning any new skill, meditation requires practice. Thankfully, there are many of apps to guide you through the process. Here are some of our favourites.
Waking up is a meditation app by neuroscientist, philosopher, and New York Times best-selling author, Sam Harris. Waking up app is intending to be a guide to better understand your mind, for the purpose of living a more balanced and fulfilling life. The app has a clean interface, and includes an introductory course, a cycle of daily meditations and short lessons on meditation and philosophy.
With 50 million downloads and counting, Calm is the number 1 app for meditation. Unlike Waking Up, Calm claims to be specifically for sleep and relaxation. The app includes hundreds of programs, with content tailored for beginners, intermediate and advance users, as well as bedtime stories for those who prefer to listen to something as they drift-off to sleep.
Headspace also provides a wealth of content, with hundreds of guided meditations on subjects including focus and sleep. Headspace provides a holistic approach to mindfulness, including music to help you stay focused and ‘Move Mode’ workouts which combine meditation with exercise.
Meditation can help calm the mind, which may make it easier to fall asleep. While research on its effectiveness is limited, meditation is a low-risk intervention for sleep problems, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try. However, it’s important to remember that stress is just one factor that can impact our sleep, so for best results meditation should be combined with other good sleep habits.