Meditation can bring about a deep feeling of rest and relaxation which not only helps you to fall asleep fast but also to wake up very refreshed the next morning.
When you meditate more regularly, you will notice that you fall asleep more easily, that your sleep is deeper, and that you need less sleep.
Meditation itself can be a good remedy for insomnia, but there are a few exercises that may provide more benefit specifically for insomnia.
Meditation exercises that can be especially helpful for insomnia are progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, body scan and yoga nidra. Depending on the reason why you are having difficultly sleeping you may find that one exercise may be more helpful for you than the other.
There are several similarities between the body scan and yoga nidra, but yoga nidra in many cases can be more effective because of the additional steps. You may find it more beneficial to use a recording while doing the body scan and/or yoga nidra since it requires less inner direction and thinking.
In this article we will take a look at a few meditation exercises that can help you with your insomnia and help you get to sleep.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
While lying in bed, prepare yourself by making sure that you are comfortable. Make any adjustments you need. You will start with your feet, gradually working your way up:
- Simply relax for a minute or two, emptying your mind of all thoughts.
- Focus on your right foot, being aware of how it feels.
- Tighten all the muscles in your right foot and hold them for around 10 seconds.
- Let the muscles in your foot relax completely.
- Focus on how the release feels.
- Savor the moment of all that tension leaving the foot.
- Move to your lower right leg, followed by the leg in its entirety, then the left foot and leg; next comes the arms and hands, then your abdomen, chest, neck, shoulders and head.
- Each body part requires slowly building up the muscle tension and slowly releasing it, being aware of your breathing and the rhythm created.
- Building and releasing tension physically can also be visualized mentally if you find that to be helpful for you.
You can practice progressive muscle relaxation two times a day for a full week when you first start out. By doing this you will become more proficient at the exercise, even in the presence of distractions.
Thereafter, practice daily and as needed for total tension-cleansing, from head-to-toe. This may be just what you need to overcome your insomnia.
Deep Breathing Meditation
Deep breathing can be a quick, cleansing way to relax and get ready for sleep. It can be combined with meditation or simply conducted wherever you happen to be, as a means of instant relaxation and self-control.
- Sit up straight with good posture, but make sure you're comfortable.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose, holding your abdominal muscles taut as you do so.
- Let the breath out via your mouth, fully emptying your lungs of air.
- Once the breath is expelled, release your abdominal muscles.
- It should take you longer to exhale than it did to inhale.
- As you exhale, visualize yourself physically letting go of any worries or stress, problems and other toxicity in your life.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, to fully experience the body's rhythm when breathing deeply.
- Go slowly and enjoy the process, keeping in mind that deeper breathing increases the supply of oxygen directly to the brain, thus, if you rush, you may feel light-headed or dizzy.
- Start and end each day with a session of deep breathing.
- Use deep breathing as a tool to let go of the stress of the day, clear your mind and get ready for sleep.
Body Scan Meditation
The body scan is an excellent exercise that is often done at the end of a yoga session, but for many people it also forms part of their daily meditation exercises. The exercise is also often done as a relaxation exercise in stress management courses.
It is an excellent exercise for beginners. It can be done either sitting or lying down, but is recommended to be done lying down, especially for beginners.
In this meditation our body is our focal point. As we make our journey through our body we bring our full awareness to the direct experience of each area we are focusing on.
If our mind begins to stray away we draw it back to the part of the body that it should be focused on. In this way we train our power of focus and concentration.
During this exercise we also try to be aware of and to feel all physical sensations in our body. We become more and more aware of which parts of our body are less relaxed and we become more and more conscious of the effects of relaxation on our muscles, our posture and our organs.
In this way we develop the kind of body awareness and the kind of sensitivity for our physical sensations that many of us may have lost some time during our life.
We often hear that as a result of this exercise and our breathing exercises many people begin to appreciate, accept and experience their body in a more positive manner.
If you experience problems during this meditation because you have difficulty feeling certain area of your body or you become aware that a certain area causes pain, the best thing to do is to accept these feelings and to just let them be okay without wanting to change them.
- Sit down or lie down, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.
- Be aware of every breath in and breath out. Let your breathing become natural and automatic, do not try to control it.
- Observe how the air slowly passes in through your nose fills up your lungs and goes out again.
- If after a few breaths you feel at ease and ready we start with our scan.
- Direct your attention to your forehead. Try to feel the skin and be aware of any sensation or tension that might be there.
- If you do not feel anything at all that is alright too.
- Allow yourself to feel nothing at all.
- Do the same with your nose, your ears, your eyes, your eyebrows, your jaw, your mouth, your lips and the skin of your face and the back of your head. Feel how the mouth and the jaw relax and how the eyes sink back into their sockets.
- Then direct your attention to your neck, your collar bones, your shoulders, your left upper arm, your right upper arm, your elbows, your lower arms, your hands and fingers. Concentrate on each of these areas one by one, both left and right.
- Every time your attention wanders off, do not panic but calmly return to where you left off.
- Allow yourself to feel and to experience all sensations.
- With every breath out, relax the area that you are concentrated on.
- Direct your attention to your chest, your diaphragm, your belly muscles, your upper back, your lower back, your spine.
- Be aware of how your breathing, perhaps also your body posture, changes as a result of the relaxation. Does not your body feel different already?
- Go on in this manner and direct your attention to your pelvis, your genitals, your buttocks, your two upper legs, your knees, your lower legs, your ankles, feet and toes. Go slowly.
- Notice the differences between the various areas. Feel the sensations in your body, feel how your muscles get more and more relaxed and observe which body parts are relatively hard to relax.
- Let yourself become extremely heavy. Now you are totally relaxed and at ease.
- When you have refreshed and relaxed your entire body, return for a while to an area in your body that felt relatively tense. Concentrate wholly on that particular area and try to make it feel relaxed. Do you feel the difference? Does it call forth certain thoughts or emotions? Observe and let things go.
- Finally: tighten all your muscles for three seconds and do this twice and after each tightening let things go on a breath.
- All right, slowly take your attention back to the rest of your body and the noises in the room. Move a little, stretch your muscles a bit and open your eyes.
Yoga Nidra Meditation
Give yourself at least 10 to 15 minutes for a short version of Yoga Nidra.
- Try to stay present and still.
- For your Yoga Nidra, visualize a positive intention or deep resolve. You can either say it to yourself a couple of times or you can say it out loud. Feel your intention spreading through the body suffusing your awareness.
- Next, release your intention and let it go. Seeds of your intention will always carry on even after dropping your conscious focus.
- Welcome any tastes, sensations, and smells, in the environment you are currently in. Notice images, thoughts, feelings as they arise and fade away and allow your mind and body to just be.
- With your eyes closed, allow for your internal vision to start taking shape. Rest easy and remain curious and open to the practice.
- Using your nose, breathe in and out with simple but welcoming breaths. Take note of the flow and invite your breath in and then out. Always remember to take slow and relaxing breaths.
- With each successive breath release a bit of tension. Use your imagination to increase your exhalation. It is advisable to imagine inhaling via the crown of the head directly to the heart then exhaling from the heart all the way down to the soles of your feet as well as toes. Imagine having the entirety of your body inhale and the entirety of your body exhale. Repeat this for a few times.
- Breathe in while you say the number ‘50’ mentally. Breathe out then say the number ‘49’ mentally. The next inhale is the number ‘48’ while the next exhale is the number ‘37’. Keep this backward countdown until you reach the number ‘1’. You do not need to rush. Do not be frustrated in case you miss a number. Be friendly to yourself even when you fall asleep or forget to keep proper count. Feel your body becoming deeply relaxed with every out breath as you count backwards from 50 to 1.
- Relax all the muscles in your body by squeezing then relaxing. Focus on every unique muscle or muscle group as you go. As you tighten and release you can encourage each muscle subtly to breathe with you a little.
- Let go of the tightening sequence and take a full tour of your body. Initially, become aware of the entire body at once. Allow yourself to be weightless and light or heavy and dense – simply experience whatever will arise. Whatever sensations you find, welcome them. Keep still while you continue focusing attention on every part of the body.
- While you move through the sequence imagine your awareness as a golden light that touches all parts of your body. Caress the fingers, eyes, your navel, the space between organs – suffuse the whole body with soothing light. Next, radiate this light outwards starting with friends then to family and finally to everybody that you know. Finally, radiate the light to all things and beings. Imagine that the light you are sending out to others is being sent back to you. Continue receiving and giving and allow your sense of self as well as others begin to dissolve. Bask in this radiant and shared sensation.
- Come back to your breath. Do not think too much about it simply experience the movement both in and out. Allow your breath to nurture and hold you. Return to your natural respiration’s gentle rhythm.
- Wiggle both your toes and fingers. Start moving your body around. Notice how you feel. Do you feel more relaxed and sleepy? If nothing else it may provide a way to overcome the frustration and restlessness of insomnia. Or, it may have been just what your body needed in order to let go and fall into a nice restful sleep.
Other Ways To Reduce Insomnia
- Eat well. You will find that the better you eat during the day, the more positive effect it will have on your ability to get deep restful sleep at night.
- Try listening to some relaxing music or nature sounds or even using a white noise machine.
- Take a walk. Walking provides exercise, a way to clear the mind and give you fresh air.
- Limit your caffeine. Caffeine can have an impact on your ability to fall asleep and sleep deeply and can also disrupt your natural rhythms.
- Talk to a friend. If something is weighing on you that is keeping you up and night try talking with a close friend that you can fully open up to. Talking is a great way to process and let go of emotional energy that may be inhibiting your sleep.
- Try not to drink alcohol too late in the evening. Alcohol can disrupt your body's natural sleep cycle.
Insomnia can be a very frustrating experience, but using meditation and meditation exercises can help overcome the feelings of restlessness or worry. Try using any of these techniques to help you with your insomnia. You may also find that using a guided recording for some of them may be more beneficial.