As the clock strikes midnight, you rub your eyes and recall that you should get at least eight hours of sleep — and you’ve got to be up at 7:00 am to get ready for work! You brush your teeth and hop into your pajamas, and pull back the covers of your bed, ready to slip into a quick sleep. But now that you’re here… you don’t seem to be sleepy anymore! Your mind is racing, you’re thinking about what you’ve got going on tomorrow, what you should’ve done earlier today. Your thoughts are bouncing around, but they settle on something you read about earlier today — what’s that? Oh yeah, sleep meditation! “But, how does meditation before sleeping actually work?” you consider, before continuing to toss and turn.
Here’s how sleep meditation works.
Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s mind or thinking deeply for a period of time. This can be done silently (most common) or with the help of chanting (your neighbor’s least favorite), while sitting/lying still or pointedly moving (yoga or tai chi). While meditation can have any number of goals, sleep meditation is a subset that focuses on — you guessed correctly — getting away with mindful sleep.
3 Styles of Meditation You Can Practice Right Now
1. Mindfulness Meditation For Sleep
The specific practice of meditation can aid in mindful sleep. It’s all about letting thoughts go, instead of focusing on all of the individual fleeting bits that pass through your mind. The process of meditation before sleeping is simple to learn but difficult (and rewarding) to master.
- Step 1: Lay down and get comfortable.
It's your bed, you know how to do it!
- Step 2: Feeling Your Breath
Some people say to “follow” your breath as it goes in and out. Think about the physical sensation of air entering through your nostrils, into your lungs. Picture the rising and falling of your belly or chest — find a focal point in your breathing and slowly… breathe.
- Step 3: Wandering Mind
Your mind will wander (this is totally natural) and fleeting thoughts will enter your mind. You’ll visualize things — work, family, friends, to-do lists — and let them enter your consciousness. Don’t fight against thinking, even though it seems counterintuitive.
- Step 4: Let ‘em Go
Acknowledge your thoughts. They exist, they matter, they’re part of you… now let them go. Picture your thoughts on little polaroids, but instead of trying to engage with the image, let the wind carry them away, in time with your breath. Go back to your focal point.
- Step 5: A Moment
Consider how you feel. If you need to adjust, give yourself one extra moment before you do it — think about sleep, sink into the pillow, and continue to breathe… slower… slower…
- Step 6: Wake Up
Congratulations, you fell asleep and now it’s tomorrow! Feeling well-rested? Great!
2. Guided Meditation For Sleep
Guided meditation for sleep has become very popular in the last several years. Sometimes called visualization or guided imagery, it’s a method of sleep meditation that focuses on forming mental pictures that are relaxing.
Try this out: When you’re laying in bed, picture yourself on a beach — the waves are lapping onto the shore, your hammock is swinging ever-so-gently in the light breeze, the sun is shining through the clouds and warming your skin through the leaves of a nearby palm tree… imagine the details individually, the smell of the fresh air, the seagulls singing in the distance…
The mere practice of meditation before sleeping, imagining a sleep-inducing situation, can help you release the stressors of life outside of your bed, sleep more quickly, and feel more well-rested the following day.
There are numerous apps that have a strong focus on guided meditation for sleep that are worth trying out: The Mindfulness App, Headspace, Calm, Mindbody, Buddhify… the list is nearly endless! Sleep meditation can help you create the inner calm for a restful night — when you picture a calming environment, you become more relaxed. The practice of visualization is very common amongst top-performing athletes and the science is sound — when you picture what you want to be true, it becomes a little more true.
So go ahead and picture yourself sleeping!
3. Meditation Sleep Music
Modern meditation music began picking up steam in the 1960s and ’70s with artists like John Cage and Pauline Oliveros, who took meditation techniques and concepts and applied them to musical practices. With rapid changes in the accessibility of music-making equipment in the 21st century and the ability to easily share music via YouTube, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud, sleep meditation audio has firmly supplanted itself as a legitimate genre of music — maybe even an internet subculture. Some popular sleep meditation audios on Youtube are guided meditation by Michael W. Taft, guided sleep talkdown, floating amongst the stars, etc
Meditation sleep music combines soothing soundscapes with consistent, orderly ambiance, free from unexpected tonal changes, often lengthy and very cleanly produced. These songs often heighten delta waves — high amplitude brain waves that oscillate between 0-4 hertz — which are associated with slow wave sleep.
YouTube has a vibrant community of meditation sleep music playlists and videos. While it may seem counterintuitive, the community is very active and defying the normal conventions of YouTube comment sections, exceedingly friendly.
Try listening to one of these very long-titled popular pieces of sleep meditation music:
- “Deep Sleep Music: Ocean Waves, Fall Asleep Fast, Relaxing Music, Sleeping Music ★138" (8.3 million views) Listen
- “Relaxing Music for Deep Sleep. Delta Waves. Calm Background for Sleeping, Meditation, Yoga” (24.99 million views). Listen
- “8 Hour Deep Sleep Music: Delta Waves, Relaxing Music Sleep, Sleeping Music, Sleep Meditation, ☯159” (47.8 million views) Listen
Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s mind or thinking deeply for a period of time. While meditation can have any number of goals, sleep meditation focuses on types of meditation that help you get to sleep quickly, stay asleep, or at the very least, get in the mood for sleeping. From guided meditation to meditation music for sleeping, there’s something for everybody. If you find yourself unable to quiet your mind while you’re winding down for the evening, give it a try — focus your thoughts or let them float away with the day behind you as you drift off to sleep.