We often associate mindfulness meditation with sitting cross-legged on the ground, but we can also be meditative in other positions, such as walking or lying down. Meditation while lying down is beneficial for sleep. When we meditate in bed at night, we can fall asleep quickly and easily, and it also improves the quality of our sleep.
To meditate in bed, lie down comfortably on your back with legs hip-distance apart. Relax your body and take a few deep breaths. Then, begin meditating on your breath or mindfully scan your body. When you get distracted by thoughts, gently bring the mind back to the object of meditation.
So in this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the effects of meditation on sleep and the best ways to meditate in bed.
- Sleep and meditation
- Can you meditate lying down?
- How to lie down correctly for meditation
- 4 ways to meditate in bed
- Tips for meditating while lying down
- Other benefits of meditating
Sleep and meditation
Sleep is a critical element in our overall well-being. It’s just as important as food, water, and shelter. Experts say that we should sleep 7-9 hours per night. However, the modern lifestyle has led to a lack of proper sleep for many of us. We have difficulties falling or staying asleep because of a range of biological reasons and lifestyle choices.
Technology also has a big role to play in it. Research shows that the more screen time we have in a day, the more difficulty we may have falling and staying asleep.
How meditation improves sleep
In the last few decades, meditation has emerged as an effective technique to help us get a peaceful sleep. Whether you do it in bed at night or at any other time of the day, meditation pacifies the mind and reduces stress and anxiety.
A study, published in Jama International Medicine, included 49 adult participants who had sleep disorders. They were divided into two groups. The first group practiced meditation and other mindfulness exercises that helped them focus on the present moment. The second group was taught ways to improve their sleeping habits through a sleep education class.
The study continued for six weeks, and the mindfulness group reported less fatigue and insomnia as compared to the sleep education group at the end of the six-week course.
For many of us, sleep issues are closely related to stress. Mindfulness meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response. It’s the opposite of stress response in which the body releases substances like cortisol when it perceives threat or emergency. The relaxation response helps relieve stress-related issues like depression, blood pressure, and anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation requires us to focus our attention in the present moment. It helps us break our normal chain of thoughts by not drifting into the past or the future. This, in turn, evokes the relaxation response of the body.
Can you meditate lying down?
You can meditate lying down just as you would do it while sitting cross-legged. The core concept of meditation stays the same no matter how you do it: mindfulness of breath, mantra, or body sensations. We can meditate in any position: walking, sitting on a chair, sitting cross-legged, standing, or lying down.
However, the thing with meditating while lying down is that you’re more likely to fall asleep. Now, this is wonderful for people who have difficulties falling asleep, and that’s what we will discuss in the next sections. It is better to fall asleep while meditating than tossing and turning in bed.
However, you shouldn’t only meditate while lying on the bed. Many of us can’t stay awake even when we’re meditating cross-legged with our back straight. Dozing off is a common occurrence among beginner practitioners. The formal sitting meditation has paramount importance, and can not be replaced by lying meditation.
We’re not saying that meditating in other postures isn’t as fruitful as sitting meditation, but regular sitting sessions in a quiet space help us develop a habit. The sitting posture is also conducive to meditation, allowing us to experience higher states of consciousness. If you want to learn more about the sitting posture, read: Meditating on the Floor vs. on a Chair — Which Is Better?
So, can you meditate lying down? Yes. Can you replace your sitting sessions with lying down? Not at all.
How to lie down correctly for meditation
Shavasana or the corpse pose in Yoga is the most usual and effective way to lie down and relax. When relaxing in Shavasana, keep the following points in mind:
- You should always lie down on your back so that the spine is in a straight line.
- Your legs should be approximately hip-distance apart.
- Spread your arms about a foot away from the hips and make sure your palms are facing upwards.
- The tip of your tongue should touch the palate, just behind the upper row of your teeth.
- Once you lie down, flex your leg muscles tightly and lift them a few inches from the ground. Then, drop them and let them lie.
- Repeat this tightening, lifting, and dropping sequence with other parts of your body: hips, upper back, and arms.
- Lastly, shake your head from left to right. Imagine your face swinging like a pendulum, slowly losing its momentum until it comes to a stop.
- You’re ready to meditate now.
Related: Are Meditation and Prayer the Same?
4 ways to meditate in bed
Meditation is a simple technique that can be practiced anytime, anywhere. No special equipment or special tools are required; you only need a few minutes to better your life. Let’s now discuss meditation practices to do in bed. You can practice these meditation techniques not just at night but in the morning too.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing our attention in the present moment by being aware of our breath and body. The benefits of mindfulness meditation are remarkable and transformative. It’ll help curb those distressing thoughts and allow you to slip into a deep sleep.
Here’s how you practice mindfulness meditation:
- Lie down comfortably on your bed. You can keep a pillow under your knees.
- Close your eyes and let the body relax. If there’s tension in any part of your body, relax it consciously.
- Take a few deep breaths. Inhale for 5 counts, hold your breath for another 5 counts, and finally exhale for 5 counts. Repeat this process three to five times.
- Notice your breaths. Let the body breathe naturally and just be aware of it. You can notice the sensations caused in your nostrils by breathing or watch the rise and fall of your belly.
- Stay on the object of meditation. When thoughts come up, gently bring your mind back to your breath.
Breath meditation has a very relaxing effect on the mind. If you do it in the morning, it’ll help you start your day with mindfulness and serenity. When you meditate at night, it’ll allow the brain to relax, and you’ll fall asleep much quicker.
In guided meditation, another person leads you through each step of the practice. You may be instructed to relax your body, focus on your breath, or visualize something. If you’re having difficulties falling asleep, you can listen to a guided meditation session that’ll help you stop tossing and turning.
Guided sessions aren’t just limited to falling asleep. Various guided meditations are available on YouTube, and they are tailored toward specific topics, such as reducing stress or being grateful.
Lie down on your bed, choose your favorite guided meditation, and follow the instructions. Some videos may have binaural beats in them, so it’s better to listen using headphones. You can also download the video from YouTube for quicker access.
Apart from YouTube, apps like Calm or Headspace also have guided sessions for different purposes. These apps are excellent for learning the basics and building a habit of meditation. You can also find guided meditations on music streaming apps, such as Spotify or Soundcloud.
Here, I’ll include a guided meditation designed to help you fall asleep. Test it out and see how it feels.
Many times, we hold tension in distinct parts of the body. We may be so caught up in our mental anguish that we don’t recognize the physical discomfort, such as back pain, headaches, and tense muscles. This physical discomfort doesn’t let us relax and also affects our emotional states negatively.
In body-scan meditation, you focus our attention on physical sensations. It’s a wonderful way to release tension we might not even be aware of. When the body is relaxed, the mind also relaxes. Body-scan meditation helps us unwind and fall asleep easily.
Here’s how to practice body-scan meditation in bed:
- Lie down on the bed. Youcan keep a pillow under your knees to make yourself comfortable.
- Close your eyes. Relax the body and remove any distractions, including your phone. Notice your body’s weight on the bed.
- Take a few deep breaths. Let your breathing slow down and breathe from your belly instead of from your chest. This will calm the mind down and help you relax further.
- Bring awareness to your face. Soften your eyes, jaw, and facial muscles. Notice any tension in any part of the face and let it go.
- Scan your entire body in this way. Continue this practice, moving down your body. Notice your shoulders and arms, chest and stomach, hips, and legs. Notice how each part feels and where you’re holding stress. If there’s any tension, pain, or uneasiness, let it go.
- Move back up after reaching your feet. Repeat this practice in the opposite direction, from your feet to your head. In this way, do it for a few minutes.
2:1 Breathing technique
In our body, the sympathetic nervous system arouses the body for physical activity by increasing blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. The parasympathetic nervous system relaxes the body by decreasing heart rate, muscle tone, and blood pressure.
These parts are stimulated by our conscious activity (eating, sleeping, working) and also by our breathing. Inhalation stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, while exhalation emphasizes the parasympathetic nervous system.
2-to-1 breathing or Rechaka is a Pranayama technique in which we lengthen the exhalation. By increasing the length of exhalation, we increase nerve activity in the parasympathetic nervous system and decrease the influence of the sympathetic nervous system.
So, 2-to-1 breathing relaxes the body and calms the mind, helping us fall asleep easily. We can also use this technique throughout the day whenever we feel stressed.
Here’s how to practice 2-to-1 breathing or Rechaka:
- Lay down comfortably on your bed. You can keep a pillow between your knees to make it more comfortable.
- Close your eyes. Relax your body and remove any distractions, including your phone.
- Inhale for x counts. Gently inhale through the nose. You can inhale for 2, 3, or 4 counts – whatever feels comfortable.
- Exhale for 2x counts. Exhale through the nose for double the time that you inhaled for. If you inhaled for 4 counts, exhale for 8. This is the 2-to-1 breathing ratio.
- Continue for 5-10 cycles. Do this practice for several minutes and resume normal breathing if you become lightheaded.
Tips for meditating while lying down
- Breathe from your diaphragm. Make sure you’re breathing from your belly instead of from your chest. Push your belly out as you breathe in through your nose and draw your belly in toward the spine as you breathe out. Diaphragmatic breathing has many benefits, including increased relaxation and reduced stress.
- Keep a pillow under your knees. When you’re lying on your back to sleep, it’s a good idea to keep a soft pillow under your knees. It eases any back strain and eases the pressure on joints in the back of the spinal column.
- Practice at any time of the day. These meditations can be done not only at night, but at any time throughout the day. Whenever you feel like you need to relax and let go, take a few minutes, lie down, and calm the mind using these techniques.
- It’s normal for the mind to wander. The mind is restless, and thoughts will keep popping up one after another. Whenever that happens, bring your attention back to your object of meditation.
Other benefits of meditating
Better sleep is just one of the many benefits of meditation. This ancient practice offers various other physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Here are a few notable benefits of meditating regularly:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Sharper mind and increased creativity
- Enhanced emotional intelligence and relationships
- Improves the immune system and physical health
- Reduced depression and pain
- Increased compassion and serenity
If you want to know more about these incredible benefits, read this article: Benefits of Meditation: 20 Reasons Why Meditation Is Important.
A hyperactive brain often stops us from having a restful sleep. Stress is another common factor that keeps us awake when we should be asleep. Research has shown that meditation calms the mind and improves the quality of our sleep.
Remember, meditation is about consistency. Regular 10-minute meditation for three months is more beneficial than meditating 2 hours a day for a week. So explore each technique for a few days, figure out which one feels the most comfortable, and practice it daily.
Also, while meditation improves your sleep, it doesn’t replace good sleep habits. You should turn off electronics, keep your room dark and quiet, and avoid caffeine or heavy meals before going to bed.
Good luck and happy meditating! 😊