Slow Your Mind

How to Meditate for Better Sleep

How to Meditate for Better Sleep
Photo: Kate Stone Matheson / Unsplash

Are you struggling with insomnia? Meditation can help you learn to let go of things that stress you.

By regular meditation practice, you will find it easier to relax and slow down, both mentally and physically, which will make it easier to fall asleep.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine investigated what impact mindfulness meditation has on sleep quality.1 Forty-nine older adults with sleeping problems were split into two groups. One group completed a mindful awareness program, and the other group completed a sleep hygiene education program. Both groups met for two hours per week for six weeks. They also got assigned homework.

The results?

Both groups improved sleep quality, but the group who had completed the mindful awareness program showed significant improvement relative to the group who had completed sleep hygiene education. Also, the group who completed the mindful awareness program showed significant improvement relative to the group who completed sleep hygiene education on insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference, and fatigue severity.

3 Meditation Exercises to Help You Calm Down Before Bedtime

It's simple to meditate. Here's how you do it:

  1. Focus on an object (for example your breathing).
  2. Whenever you find that your mind has wandered, gently bring it back.

Even though the practice is simple, it takes time to master. Begin by practicing a few minutes a day. When you've got momentum, slowly increase your practice time to 10, 20 and 30 minutes a day.

I recommend that you don't practice meditation right before bedtime. Have at least 30 minutes from your practice session to bedtime. You don't want to fall asleep by meditation -- it should help you to learn how to relax. Also, short mindfulness exercises during the day can help you relax more easily.

Here are three meditation exercises to try...

Mindful breathing

Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight. Your feet should be placed on the ground and your hands on your laps. You can have your eyes open or closed. If you have them open, you should not look at anything particular.

Make sure you check-in before starting to meditate. Look around and become aware of the surroundings. When you find yourself ready, put your awareness to your breathing.

You should not control your breathing, just observe it. Whenever you find that your mind has wandered, gently bring it back to your breathing.

By focusing on your breathing, your mind calms down, and your body becomes relaxed.

Mindful listening

Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight. Place your feet on the ground and your hands on your laps. Don't look at anything particular. You can have your eyes closed if you want to.

Put your awareness to the sounds around you. If you listen carefully, you can hear different layers of sound. Some sounds are coming from far away, others from your own body.

Try to focus on one sound at a time. First, listen to the sounds coming from your own body. Then, listen to the sounds further away, one at a time.

Last, try to hear the different layers of sound. Become aware of one layer at a time, then listen to all layers at the same time.

If your mind wanders, gently bring it back.

Mindful stretching

Doing some easy stretching exercises helps release tension in your body. Often, we're not even aware of how tense we are until we release the tension in our bodies.

Alternatively, you can do a slow yoga sequence to release tension in your body and calm your mind.


  1. Black DS, O'Reilly GA, Olmstead R, Breen EC, Irwin MR. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):494–501. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081 

Published by on .