Meditation and Sleep
Meditation has a history that dates back thousands of years in Asia, but only recently has it started to take hold in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the use of meditation increased from 4.1 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017.
In addition, medical research about meditation has grown and validated that this mind-body practice has the ability to provide numerous health benefits with limited or no downsides.
By inducing relaxation, meditation has great potential to help people with sleeping problems, including insomnia. It offers a low-cost method that is accessible to virtually everyone and can be done in the comfort of your own bedroom.
This guide serves as a primer about meditation, how it affects the body, and how it can be used to promote sleep. It reviews the best types of meditation for sleep, answers common questions that people have about meditation, and offers links to learn more and to get started meditating.
What is Meditation?
Meditation can take many forms, and this can make it challenging to define.
At a broad level, meditation is a mind-body practice for creating calmness. In practice, it usually involves four elements:
- A quiet location
- A comfortable posture
- A specific focus of attention (such as breaths, words, or images)
- A non-judgmental attitude that allows thoughts and observations to come and go
The specific location, posture, focus, and attitude can be modified based on the type of meditation. In some types of meditation, physical movements may be added, such as with many types of yoga that involve specific postures.
Meditation can have many goals, but as a mind-body exercise, it works to observe and recognize the ways that the brain and body are related and influence health, emotions, and well-being. It is considered to be a type ofcomplementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or integrative medicine. One of the most common ways that it is used is as a relaxation strategy.
Addiction and sleep
Anyone who’s gone through addiction, or cared for a loved one with addiction, knows firsthand the devastating effects it has on a person’s life. Addiction disrupts all areas of your life, and sleep is no exception.
According to one estimate, individuals with addiction are 5 to 10 times more likely to have comorbid sleep disorders.
Sleep and addiction are intricately linked. Many people use alcohol or other drugs to help them fall asleep and treat their insomnia, and accidentally become addicted as a result. Even if one didn’t have sleep problems before their addiction, long-term substance abuse physically changes your brain’s sleep architecture, disrupting your sleep patterns and sleep quality. Then, just as they come to rely on the addiction substance to function during the day, they also can’t sleep without it. Things only get worse in recovery, with sleep problems being one of the longest-lasting symptoms of detox.
Fortunately, there is some hope: addiction, and many of the sleep problems along with it, is treatable. The better you sleep, the lower your risk of relapse. Master your sleep, and it’s much easier to stick to your recovery plan.