If you have to deal with difficult decisions and stressful situations on the daily, not to mention the dumpster fire that is the news cycle at any given moment, it’s not unusual to have anxiety and intrusive thoughts that keep you awake at night.
There are things you can do that help. For example, you can try cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to transform your negative habits and thoughts about sleep into positive ones.
However, there’s another sleep-promoting technique you might consider: meditation. It’s a safe and accessible way to calm your ruminating mind, and there are plenty of free apps you can use to make it easier to do.
“Meditation can really help with navigating stress in terms of calming the body down,” said Cassandra Carlopio, a licensed psychologist in Australia and a meditation teacher focusing on sleep. “It can help with shifting focus away from anxiety about sleep, or what we affectionately call ‘bedtime thought,’ which can be very stressful.”
Meditation helps you connect to the present moment and clear your head of worrying or stressful thoughts, and it can help you manage emotions that may cause daytime fatigue and disturb your ability to sleep at night.
Still, “meditation is not a wonder drug that fixes all sleep issues, which are very nuanced and complicated,” Carlopio told BuzzFeed News.
Why meditation may help you sleep
A major cause of sleeplessness is arousal in the brain triggered by the release of cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress-related hormones, according to Deirdre Conroy, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at the University of Michigan.
Meditation targets this primal fight-or-flight response that causes our hearts to pound, minds to race, and muscles to tense.
With the help of deep, slow, and controlled breathing that accompanies most meditation techniques, as well as the calm environment and general stillness you create when meditating, you can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with resting and digesting rather than fighting or fleeing, Conroy told BuzzFeed News.
“Often we’re just going, going, going. We’re not really focused on our heart rate until we get into bed at night and learn that our heart is racing and that we’re very tense,” Conroy said. “If we practice meditation more often, we’re training our brain to be able to calm itself, like a self-management strategy.”
In one 2019 study, 40 healthy university students with no meditation experience had a bigger drop in saliva cortisol levels after 30 hours of meditation training over a four-day period compared to a control group with no training.
Another study included 54 adults with chronic insomnia who had meditation training over eight weeks that focused on either coping with stress or insomnia. The practice helped reduce the amount of time participants spent awake at night by an average of …….