Sleep. We all know how important it is, and we all know what happens to us when we don’t get enough of it. Yet, most of us, and especially us college students, still don’t get enough sleep. Whether it be due to late nights studying, late nights out with friends, or that caffeinated pre-workout you drink before a late-night lifting session, it can be hard to get the 6-7hours of recommended sleep while in college (Asp, 2020).
So, then the question becomes, if I can’t sleep more, can I sleep better? Is quality better than quantity when it comes to sleep? The answer seems to be yes! According to one study that looked at 1.1 million people’s sleep patterns over six years, getting five hours of quality sleep a night is better than eight hours of non-quality sleep (Asp, 2020). According to the National Sleep Foundation (yes, that’s a real thing) signs of non-quality sleep include taking more than 30-minutes to fall asleep, waking up more than once in the night, and lying awake for more than 20-minutes if you do wake up in the middle of the night (Foley, 2020).
What does this have to do with meditation, you ask? Quite a lot actually! A 2015 study done by Dr. David Black and colleagues showed that a “mindfulness awareness practice” (meditation) was more successful at improving quality of sleep than simply learning about healthy sleeping habits. Meditation can help improve the quality of sleep by reducing stress and anxiety before bed, increasing melatonin and serotonin, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, improving control of the subconscious part of your nervous system (which can help reduce how often you're awakened), and by activating the parts of the brain that controls sleep (Nunez, 2020).
Okay, you get it. Meditation can help you sleep better. But just knowing that isn’t going to help you much! You need to know what you should be doing before bed! Healthline recommends mindfulness meditation, guided meditations, and body scan meditation as the three most effective forms of meditation to improve sleep quality. I have written about how to specifically perform each one of these forms of meditation in a previous blog post found here, but in order to tweak them to do before bed try these tips:
1. Add meditation to your nightly routine. You already (hopefully) take care of your personal hygiene every night before you go to bed, like brushing your teeth and washing your face, so just add meditation to the mix. Start with meditating for 3-5 minutes a night and start adding more and more time as you get more comfortable with it until you’re meditating for 15-20 minutes a night.
2. Get rid of distractions. I know we’ve all heard this one before. Turn off all your phones and electronics before you go to bed…blah blah blah. This is obviously easier said than done, so I’m offering a compromise instead. Make meditation the last thing you do before you go to bed. Send all your emails, reply to all your Snapchats and set all your alarms before you meditate. That way, after you meditate for those 5-minutes every night, you are done with the technology and the meditation can act like a reset switch, preparing you for a good night’s sleep away from the stress and burden of technology. (And then you just have to resist that temptation to check it just one more time….)
3. Pay special attention to allowing the thoughts that pop up during meditation to pass. I know for me personally, the main reason I can’t fall asleep at night is because I am thinking about something that happened that day or something that’s going to happen the next day. So, as you meditate before bed, it is likely that these thoughts will come up. As always with meditation, acknowledge these thoughts, thank them for coming, but tell your mind you don’t need them right now and allow them to pass. Let it go. Don’t let it bother you anymore or impede on your quality sleep.
Obviously just because you are meditating before bed, it does not mean that you now don’t need to sleep or practice good sleep practices such as trying to follow a sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine before bed, and turning off all electronics. But as a college student, I know that can be difficult or even impossible at times so hopefully meditation can provide a compromise that will help you improve the quality of your sleep after a study session, hangout, workout, or whatever else you may be doing late at night…
Asp, Kevin. “Quantity of Sleep Vs Quality of Sleep: Why This Is Important?” American Association of Sleep Technologists, 22 Jan. 2020, www.aastweb.org/blog/quantity-of-sleep-vs-quality-of-sleep-why-this-is-important.
Black, David S., et al. “Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances.” JAMA Internal Medicine, vol. 175, no. 4, 2015, p. 494., doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081.
Foley, Logan. “Sleep Quality: How to Determine If You're Getting Poor Sleep.” Edited by Anis Rehman, Sleep Foundation, 17 Dec. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/how-to-determine-poor-quality-sleep.
Nunez, Kirsten. “3 Ways to Meditate for Better Sleep.” Edited by Raj Dasgupta, Healthline, 13 Jan.2020, www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-sleep.
A special thank you to all my friends and family who have not only supported me on my journey but have helped along the way. None of this would be possible without them. Remember to take time to appreciate those in your lives!
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