Could sleep be the key to improving your mindset while awake? If you have difficulty sleeping and often wake up feeling tired, before you crawl out of bed and turn on the TV, try using a guided meditation for sleep. The toughest thing about being a high-achiever is understanding how much sleep you should get each night. Studies say an adult between the age of 18-65 should receive 7-9 hours of sleep.((Sleep Health Journal: National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendation: methodology and results summary)) I am willing to wager this is something you have heard before. I am also willing to bet even though you knew how much sleep you should receive each night, you are not actually sleeping that much. You probably have a ton going on during the day, and late at night is the only time you have to catch up on your work. You may even try to get some sleep, but you find yourself lying in bed thinking about something else you could be doing. Sleep can seem like the most unproductive thing you do each day but that is simply not the case. If you want to improve your mindset while awake, using a guided meditation to help you sleep is a great place to start.
How Guided Meditation Works
Just as it sounds, guided meditation is when a guide walks you through a journey to accomplish a specific goal. The first step is to ensure you are calm and relaxed in both the mind and body. Oftentimes, your meditation guide is going to play relaxing music to help you concentrate your attention. Traditionally, you can expect to hear birds chirping and waves crashing. However, if that is not relaxing for you personally, do not listen to it. There is no rule on what is “relaxing”. Relaxed is a personal feeling. As you walk through your journey of peace and relaxation, you will want to make sure you are taking deep breaths to help you stay relaxed.
Your breathing should be controlled, allowing you to focus. If you are focusing on your breathing, then anytime a thought enters your mind, you must visualize yourself placing that thought in a different room and closing the door. Only when you have done focusing on your breathing can you explore the thought.
If you are focused on your thoughts. Then you can engage each thought that enters your mind. Once your exploration is finished, you can properly place the thought on a shelf in your mind. Think of this shelf like an book shelf, and each book has a thought. The shelf is organized in alphabetical order, so that you are comfortable releasing the thought as you clear your mind for bed. Continue exploring your thoughts until they are each categorized on the shelf in your mind.
You also have the option of simply focusing on one object when you meditate. This item should be small enough that you have to concentrate when you look at it. The goal is to keep your eyes from wandering all over the place. Something as large as a chair for example will not work. You are going to need to choose something as small as the tip of a pencil or the nose of a doll. Your goal is to find something you do not mind focusing on and then choose a smaller aspect of that item to concentrate your attention.
What Does Meditation Have to Do with Sleeping?
Our brains conduct measurable electricity, which we call brainwaves. The four brainwaves are alpha, beta, delta, and theta. Your alpha waves are where your focus, emotions and ability to relax are located. Your beta waves house your ability to concentrate, as well as your anxiety and fight or flight response. Your delta waves are associated with deep and dreamless sleep, while your theta waves are where you dream. As your mind relaxes and your mindset deepens, you will pass through the different brainwaves.
Misconceptions about Guided Meditation
There are some misconceptions about meditation that we should go over before we continue. You do not need to clear your mind to get started. In fact, your mind may feel like a noisy place, as you take a moment to complete the thoughts you had throughout the day. There is also the misconception that you need to meditate in a certain position, for a certain amount of time. Neither of these are true. You can meditate while sitting at your desk, on the couch, or in the lotus position. You can meditate for five minutes, fifteen minutes, or even an hour or two. This is completely up to you. The power of meditation can be found in the frequency in which you meditate. This means you can meditate for fifteen minutes multiple times a day, or you can meditate for one hour every day. You simply want to get into the habit of meditating.
The Benefits of Guided Meditation for Sleep
1. Reduces Stress
Insomnia does not cause all stress, but people who find themselves dealing with stress on regular basis can have insomnia. If you can efficiently manage your stress, you can effectively manage your difficulty sleeping as well. As your guided meditation brings you into a deeper state of relaxation, your brain wave activities will slow down. Studies show that meditation can help reduce and remove symptoms of stress, emotional irritability, and depression by as much as 31%.((Psychosom Med.: A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Clinical Trial: The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program on Mood and Symptoms of Stress in Cancer Outpatients)) By helping you become aware of your feelings, meditation allows you to detach yourself from them. By detaching yourself from your feelings and emotions, you can free your mind to help you sleep. This in-turn empowers you to realize that your emotions do not define you, nor do your emotions control you. How would you like to wake up feeling invigorated by the fact that you do not have any stress or anxiety weighing on you?
2. Engage in New Experiences
Meditation is the process of accessing your subconscious mind. Once there, you can implant your intentions, thoughts and goals into your imagination and experiences. Since your mind does not recognize the difference between imagined and real events, the imagined experiences are real to your mind. This gives you the ability to imagine yourself completing your tasks. Each task you complete in your mind allows your mind to relax a little more. As your mind continues to slow down, you will find yourself more relaxed. This will also provide you the added benefit of feeling like you know exactly what you need to do the next day. The more vivid your meditation, the more powerful the imagery. If you imagine yourself completing the task multiple times before you start it, you will improve your productivity and efficiency. Think of it like putting a puzzle together and then taking it apart. Each time you see all the pieces come together, the easier it is for you to repeat the outcome.
3. Increase in Productivity
Can you recall a time when you were working so hard it felt like you were burning both ends of the candle? There was probably a point when you realized you were unable to solve even the simplest of problems. You just kept looking at your work and your mind was drawing a blank. Frustrated, you went to sleep, thinking the task was nothing short of impossible. However, when you woke up the next morning, it was as if the answer came to you in a vision. You suddenly knew exactly you needed to do and you were able to complete the task in minutes. So, what happened? Not getting the proper amount of sleep negatively impacts your productivity. When you do not get enough sleep, your focus and attention suffer. They are both exhaustible resources, which means the more you use them, the less times you can use them throughout the rest of the day. When you get the proper amount of sleep, you allow your focus and attention to replenish.((Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience: Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention )). This allows you to start each day rejuvenated and ready to attack the day. When you do not get the proper amount of sleep, you can suffer from poor memory, poor reaction times, and poor performance.
4. Improve Your Physical Health
In addition to the positive impact meditation can have on your stress and immune system, it can also have a positive impact on your physical health. Meditation is known to increase testosterone levels. As meditation reduces your stress levels, your testosterone levels increase as a byproduct. When you have higher levels of testosterone, your body’s ability to produce muscle increases as well. An additional benefit of a guided meditation for sleep is an improved quality of sleep, which will improve your body’s ability to recover after workouts.
5. Change Your Mind(Set), Literally
Meditation can increase the grey matter in the frontal cortex. Your grey matter is involved in muscle control and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making and self-control. Studies show meditation not only can improve “higher-order cognitive functions, but also to alter brain activity”.((Science Direct: The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter)) As you sleep, your brain is busier than if you were awake. It spends your sleeping hours organizing and storing the information you absorbed throughout the day. Therefore, you often find yourself dreaming about the last thing you watched or read. By engaging in guided mediation to help you go to sleep, you can help filter through and organize your thoughts before losing consciousness.
There are plenty of guided meditation videos and audios you can find that will guide you through a variety of goals. Do not try one and say guided meditation is not for you. The benefits are there, it is up to you to find one that works for you. Experiment with different voices, different goals, and different time lengths until you find one that works.