Photo: WAYHOME Studio (Shutterstock)
I took over last month Lifehacker Fitness Challengeand work to develop a consistent meditation routine. I committed to 30 days of meditation to reduce my aversion to the practice and to establish a healthy routine to relieve stress and anxiety. In the beginning, I started a three-minute guided meditation every morning just to get used to the idea of daily meditation. The second week, however, was quite a struggle: I had changed my routine time to noon and was even more stressed. But for the third and fourth weeks, I turned to sleep meditation, which produced better results than I could have imagined.
Meditation before bed
After realizing that meditation was not for me during the day, I decided to try meditation to sleep better. Healthline reports Meditation can increase serotonin and melatonin (the sleep hormone), lower blood pressure, and activate parts of the brain that control sleep. This can prevent insomnia and reduce its effects. Now, I don’t necessarily have a terrible sleep time. As soon as I fall asleep, I sleep soundly through the night. The problem for me was getting enough sleep – by the time I got to bed, it was late. I had to learn to take the time to prepare for sleep and not find more things to do before bed.
Thankfully, Headspace has an entire section of their app dedicated to sleeping. To begin my sleep meditation, I have selected the “Wind Downs” section. This area of the application offers a number of scenarios like turning off, focusing on letting go of the day’s activities. Deep breathing, focusing attention on the breath to induce a state of calm; and sleeping back, exercises to help you fall asleep again after waking up in the middle of the night. For my experiment, I decided to switch off, sleep and goodnight to let go of the day and prepare the body for sleep.
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In each session you will be asked to lie on your back (I am a side sleeper so this was a change for me). With my noise-canceling headphones over my satin cap (important for keeping the edges tight), I relaxed when the teacher’s voice instructed me to breathe deeply. On the third breath, you will be asked to close your eyes. The guide then draws your attention to different areas of your body such as your feet and then your calves slowly moving up the body. The teacher asks you to imagine parts of the body shutting down like a computer. In between there were long moments of silence in which I knocked out like a light. At first I woke myself up and thought, “Oh no, I missed the session!” and I heard the guide’s voice begin again and told myself to shut down the next area of the body. In the course of the days I surrendered to the program and fell asleep blissfully.
I immediately noticed a change: I woke up refreshed and felt physically and mentally more energetic for the day. While I have no problems getting restful sleep, I found myself in a more favorable sleep state due to an intentional sleep routine. I got more sleep and went to bed with a calm mind instead of a frenzied one. I continued this practice and chose different sessions. Some sessions focused only on the breath while others took time to explain why shutdown is important. All sleep sessions start at 10 minutes, which I didn’t mind after switching from five minutes to ten in my second week. After a few days, I even tried 15 minute sessions.
What a success that challenge was – and it really was a challenge for someone with such a busy mind. I was able to accept the idea of meditation and attend a session consistently every day. I found sleep meditation to be the most effective, but I will keep experimenting. I see this as a healthy routine that I have and that I will continue for years to come. I can’t meditate every day, but it has become a regular activity in my life.