Getting ready for sleep at night isn’t as easy as it sounds these days. We live in a high-strung competitive world where work follows us home if we don’t already work from home to begin with.
Computer light and staring at screens and smart phones all day makes for unnatural sleep rhythms.
Unbalanced work habits can make it hard to fall asleep even though you are tired at night.
Too much artificial light and not enough natural sunlight during the day can throw off melatonin production. This leads to poor sleep and can diminish your health and vitality over the long term.
Chronic sleep deprivation is nothing to laugh about. Poor sleep quality is something that can undermine your productivity and health.
But there are some easy fixes that can help you get to bed easily and sleep more soundly.
One thing you can do right away to improve your sleep is to make sure you have the right pillow and that your pillow is supporting your head and neck properly.
Evening rituals that can help prepare you for restful sleep
In the evening it is important to have your room comfortable for sleeping. It is also important to build good habits for unwinding and getting ready for sleep.
- Wearing blue blocker glasses in the evening can help
- Step away from the screen and do relaxing pre-sleep rituals
- Unwind with a relaxing book or some quiet music
- Stretching, or going for a short walk before you turn in
- Sleep supplements can help you get to sleep and stay asleep longer
- Aromatherapy can aid you in getting enough deep sleep
- Meditation is one of the best things to do half an hour before bed to start to slow down your nervous system and get you ready to go to sleep.
And be sure you have the optimal bedding, mattress, and an optimal pillow for your sleep style. Our all natural buckwheat pillows can help you sleep deeper and wake up refreshed.
What is meditation
Meditation is a simple practice to help relax and slow down your nervous system. It is a good way to reset your body and mind back to a neutral place.
Meditation can improve your overall wellbeing and help you create greater happiness and peace in your life. There is a lot of mystery built up around the many different types of meditation practices.
Many religious and spiritual organizations use meditation to get into deep states of relaxation and focus. There have been millions of books written about meditation that have a religious or spiritual connotation. There are also lots of secular meditation books.
But most meditation techniques are meant to do one simple thing.
Meditation is meant to help you bring your physiology back to a normal healthy state so you can experience life in a more focused and effective manner.
Religious groups meditate to delve deeper into the mysteries of life. Entrepreneurs use these same techniques to achieve success in their careers.
Meditation is like the raw material of awareness. Once you have developed it you can use it to do what you like.
The peace, bliss, and joy that people often feel when they meditate regularly is universal no matter which type of meditation they do.
This shows us that meditation is a universal natural human activity that anyone can do.
You don’t need to join a cult or a religious group or even take a meditation class if you don’t want to.
You have inside you the innate ability to quiet down and reset your emotions and your nervous system to a state of equilibrium.
You probably have gotten into this flow state naturally from time to time when you are doing something you enjoy: reading, writing, walking on the beach, drawing, or just sitting quietly somewhere peaceful.
Now we are just going to learn how to formalize this innate power of yours and make it a regular part of your night time routine.
The natural flow state explained by Diane Allen in a TED Talk
How to Do a Simple Bedtime Meditation to Help You Sleep Better
Most types of meditation are done with the eyes closed. You will want to be seated in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Your back may be supported by a firm chair back or pillow.
It is usually advised not to rest the head back onto a pillow because you want to stay alert to get the benefits of the meditation without falling asleep just yet.
You can set a meditation timer on your phone for 5 or 10 minutes or work your way up to half an hour per evening.
Some people like to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning and evening. You can try guided meditation recordings or relaxing music. Or you can sit with your eyes closed without any music or guidance.
Simple Breathing Meditation
The easiest form of meditation is to sit comfortably and follow the breath. You don’t have to try and change anything about your breathing.
You may notice that your breathing gradually slows down. Or you may notice the little pause and the delicious silence between the breaths.
You can also actively relax the nervous system by timing your breath so that you exhale twice as long as you inhale. When you inhale your heart rate naturally increases. When you exhale your heart rate naturally decreases.
This is a way to mechanically reset the nervous system to a calm state. Scientist Emma Seppala explains her work with PTSD patients using this technique.
You could start with some breathing meditation for a few minutes during your session and then move on to the next exercise or stay with your breathing for the whole session.
Here is a guided breathing meditation to give you the idea. Once you have done guided meditations a few times you can do the practice on your own.
Body Scanning Progressive Relaxation Meditation
Relaxation meditation can be done at the beginning of your session for a few minutes right after watching your breathing for a few minutes.
You will simply scan your body starting at the top of the head and progressively relax the muscles of your scalp, forehead, around your eyes, all your facial muscles, your neck and shoulders and work your way down all the way to the feet.
Here are some good progressive relaxation meditations.
Heart centered meditation
In heart centered meditation you focus on the center of your chest. You may notice the heart beat or the life force or energy emanating from the middle of your chest. You can do this for a whole session or at the end of your meditation after doing breathing and body scanning.
Lincoln Gergar’s free guided spiritual heart meditation
There are thousands of books and apps and videos to choose from. Here are a few favorites:
Calm App free 7-day trial
Gaia Guided meditations
Lincoln Gergar free meditations
Deep and Simple by Bo Lozoff
The Benefits of Meditation
Science is finding that meditation has benefits in healing the brain and body when you do it regularly. Meditation can help to:
- Lower anxiety levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Induce better sleep
- Increase happiness overall
- Reduce pain and inflammation
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Help with changing habits like smoking
- Reduce menopause symptoms
- Increase the brain’s ability to process information
- Slow or reverse the effects of aging on the brain
Is Mindfulness the Same as Meditation?
You have probably heard the word “mindfulness” used to describe a meditative state or a state of present-moment awareness.
Meditation is the act of deliberately slowing down to become mindful. But mindfulness can encompass more of every day life. Mindfulness is a way of being.
Meditation is the practice of an awareness of the present moment that you hopefully take with you throughout the day.
John Kabat Zinn brought the word mindfulness into the mainstream. He studied with Zen masters and became a meditation instructor.
Dr. Amish Jha explains Mindfulness
Why We Need to Meditate Regularly
When we work indoors at a computer all day we forget to breathe. When we don’t get out in sunlight enough the lack of natural outdoor light can throw off our circadian rhythms.
Most people are focused and driven at work and don’t stop to breathe deeply or relax and enjoy life as much as we could.
Overworking and eating the wrong foods, and not breathing deeply enough causes stress to our bodies.
This constant chronic stress can lead to an overactive sympathetic nervous system. This is our fight or flight response.
The nervous system is in over drive much of the time as if we are in danger. It is as if the whole modern culture is in a state of PTSD.
We watch violent, or stimulating TV shows and movies, eat stimulating food, and scroll through our phones all day and late into the night.
Then we expect to sleep well when our head finally touches the pillow.
But of course the body cannot simply switch off after all that stimulus. We often remain on high-alert all the time and never really relax.
But not to worry.
You can deliberately retrain your nervous system so the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and rejuvenate portion of the nervous system) is able to take control at night.
Your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) can be put to sleep for the evening.
Try meditating for just ten minutes before you go to sleep with or without a guided recording or app. If you do this for a month you will notice benefits in your sleeping and waking life.