Meditation seems straightforward. Sit still, reflect, focus on your breathing, clear your mind.
But what appears simple from the outside is often complex and challenging to master.
Thought to originate between 5,000 BCE and 1,500 BCE in India, meditation is an ancient practice with benefits for the chaotic modern world.
Here at OLARA, we are particularly interested in the benefits of meditation for sleep.
By learning to turn the mind inward and focus on a single thought, meditation can calm an anxious mind and promote restful, rejuvenating sleep.
The benefits of meditation for sleep and anxiety
People practice meditation to train their minds to focus on the emotions, experiences and fleeting thoughts that crowd an overactive mind.
Left unchecked, stress and anxiety can prevent a good night’s sleep.
The stress-related hormone cortisol produces inflammatory chemicals called cytokines which disrupt sleep, increase depression feelings and raise blood pressure.
Incorporating even a few minutes of meditation into your evening routine can help you dissolve the day’s stress and unwind before bed.
Promotes emotional well-being
One of the benefits of meditation is a more positive self-image and a better outlook on life.
Meditation teaches the art of allowing feelings in. So rather than ignoring negativity, meditation helps you identify, focus on, and accept unhelpful thoughts.
In time, that ability to identify and move past negativity extends into daily life.
Habitual meditation is thought to decrease anxiety, especially among people suffering from high anxiety levels.
Several studies showed meditation had noticeable benefits, including reduced anxiety and improved coping ability.
Meditation for sleep and anxiety can quiet the thoughts racing through your head at night, helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep all night.
Mindfulness meditation can significantly decrease stress symptoms and anxious feelings, whether you experience regular anxiety-induced insomnia or the occasional sleepless night.
Increases attention span
Meditation for sleep has benefits that carry over to the next day.
Just two weeks of meditation practice has been shown to noticeably improve attention span and strength.
Focusing on a single thought for an extended time trains your brain to stay attentive.
Plus, meditation helps the brain retain more of the information it receives and reduces the time your mind spends wandering in the wilderness when you need to stay on task.
The default mode network (DMN) is a primitive part of the brain associated with mind wandering.
When we jump from thought to thought, we are more likely to land on negative or ruminating thoughts that cause stress and anxiety.
A study at Yale University showed meditation can work like a dimmer switch – even an off switch – for the DMN.
Habitual mindfulness meditation forms new neural connections that bring the mind back to the present when it wanders. So if you want to learn to live in the moment, meditation training builds those mindfulness muscles.
Other benefits of meditation
Meditation has wide-ranging benefits for sleep, mental health and physical health.
Research is ongoing in several fields. But so far, there are promising indications for:
- Slowing memory loss with age
- Reducing physical pain
- Easing anxiety
- Managing negative thoughts
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Improving patience
- Lowering blood pressure
- Alleviating tension headaches
- Reducing heart disease risk
Whether you practice mindfulness for insomnia or acute pain management, it seems there are many benefits to meditation