Try Meditation for Better Sleep

If you suffer from insomnia, you might consider meditation as a sleep aid. This ancient practice centers on clearing your mind of intrusive thoughts and attaining a deep state of relaxation and self-awareness.

While meditation is not a scientifically proven way to get more sleep, studies do suggest that it helps. "What meditation is known to do is calm the mind," says Ramadevi Gourineni, associate professor of neurology and director of the insomnia program at Northwestern University in Chicago, who mentions lower blood pressure and changes in heart-rate variability as benefits. "If your mind is calmer, you'll sleep better."

But what constitutes meditation, exactly? It turns out there is no one-size-fits-all technique. "It may be concentrating on different body parts, concentrating on the breathing, or [just] being mindful," says Dr. Gourineni. "Each person needs to ask themselves, 'What will help me feel calm?'"

So should you set aside 15 to 20 minutes each night before going to sleep in order to attain this calm? Not necessarily. According to Dr. Gourineni, meditation that's done consistently, at any time of day, will reduce stress levels in general, leading to better sleep at night. In fact, she has had patients who try to meditate right at bedtime, only to become very worked up because they're worried that what they're doing won't help them sleep. They become so focused on relaxing themselves at the crucial time that they get stressed out. For those patients, Dr. Gourineni has a simple recommendation: "Don't think so much about sleep. Do calming things like sitting and reading." Watching light television (no slasher films) and relaxing music can also calm you without making you super aware of the fact that you're trying to become calm.

According to Dr. Gourineni, meditation's benefits go beyond better sleep. She says regular meditators may discover that they also experience fewer ailments such as acid reflux, anxiety attacks, and back and neck pain.



Interview with Dr. Ramadevi Gourineni, Northwestern University.