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Meditating to sleep

Some people struggle to fall asleep at night. In fact, an estimated 164 million Americans suffer from sleeplessness at least once a week.

If you have a hard time unwinding before bed, consider meditating to sleep.

“Meditating before bed stimulates the vagus nerve, which has a calming effect on the body,” says Dennis Buttimer, M. Ed., CEAP, RYT, a facilitator at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “The vagus nerve is located at the back of the brain and runs down to the heart, lungs and abdomen. When this nerve is stimulated, your breathing slows down, your heart rate drops, and you feel more relaxed.”

How to meditate to sleep

Meditation, like sleep, involves letting go. To begin the meditation process, lie down, make yourself as comfortable as possible and close your eyes.

Step One: Focus on your breathing.

Breathe in through your nose, slowly filling your stomach with air. When your stomach is full exhale, breathing out through your nose or your mouth and gently squeeze your stomach.

“When you breathe in through your nose, you are able to take in more oxygen,” says Buttimer. “It also triggers a chemical in your nose that you don’t have in your mouth that will help you relax.”

Imagine your breath moving in and out like the ocean tide. And cue into the sound of yourself breathing.

Step Two: Scan your body.

In your mind, systematically focus on each part of your body—starting from the toes and moving to the top of the head.  And scan them for any area of tension.

“Think of you toes, your feet, ankles, lower leg, just move all the way to the top of your head,” says Buttimer.  “And just by placing your attention on any of these areas, it will cause it to relax, which is very interesting.”

Buttimer says that people often fall asleep in this stage of the meditation process, but if they haven’t they can move on to step three.

Step Three: Think of a calming word.

Think of a calming word, like ‘peace’ or ‘calm.’ Let it float in and out of your mind while you are relaxing. And slowly, but surely, surrender to the night.

If you still have trouble sleeping, click here to learn more about Piedmont's Sleep Services.  

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