All about meditation and sleep!

March 19, 2012

Will meditation help me sleep? I’m falling asleep during meditation, am I doing something wrong? Is it OK to meditate at bedtime?

“It depends…” is often the answer to these common questions. It depends on what kind of meditation you are doing. It depends on your unique nervous system and physiology. It depends on why you are meditating in the first place, what your goal is. That being said, I’ll share a few thoughts on these questions from the perspective of our meditation style.

Will meditation help me sleep? Our approach is above all to promote naturalness and ease in living. We’re all about trust — trust in life, trust in oneself. Ultimately, it’s about relaxation — letting go of the tension that comes when we try too hard, resist what is happening, or are in conflict with ourselves. It’s about relaxing into the flow of life and living. This approach to meditation, or any other meditation style that promotes deep relaxation, should certainly improve the quality of sleep. Sleep comes about as we relax and let go of the concerns of the day.

I’m falling asleep during meditation, am I doing something wrong? In the deep relaxation of meditation, the body takes what it needs. If you are not getting enough sleep, the body will naturally fall asleep. So many of us are not getting enough rest, so when sleep comes in meditation it’s a blessing, even if it’s an unplanned afternoon nap! Practicing meditation in the style we teach should lead to greater alertness and clarity. But that doesn’t mean we have to be alert and clear during meditation. (After all, we are not alert and clear during sleep, but a good night’s sleep results in greater clarity and alertness during the day.) If you were totally rested, your experience during meditation would probably be one of enhanced wakefulness and energy, but if that isn’t what is happening, that’s fine. Whatever happens is what needs to happen at the time. So we recommend not resisting sleep when it comes. The sleep you get in meditation will be particularly deep and refreshing to the system.

Is it OK to meditate at bedtime? There is no hard and fast rule about this. If meditation makes you more alert and energized, you wouldn’t want to meditate right before bed. If meditation is mainly relaxing and you slip easily into sleep while meditating, then by all means meditate before bed. The ideal would be to have another meditation earlier in the day as well. Sitting up and meditating during the day will make it more likely you’ll stay awake, and different benefits can be derived from that. If you can do it, make twice daily meditation part of your routine!

On guided meditation. As those of you know who listen to our podcast meditations or use our apps, guided meditations guide you in meditation. They can be designed to simply help you achieve a meditative state, or they can have a specific focus and take you on a journey with a particular theme. We have both kinds of meditations. Some will be conducive to falling asleep, while others will be more stimulating and may not work well right before bed. You will need to try the different meditations to see what works for you.

Our new iSleep Easy app. The guided meditations on our new app are specifically designed for bedtime, and one is even designed for when you wake up in the middle of the night. All of the meditations are designed to help you let go and relax, much like our other meditations, but they are more focused on falling asleep and promoting a sound sleep. The app also gives you the ability to create a Playlist with several meditations in a row. Currently the app is available on iPhone — you can read about it in the iTunes store. If you get the app, let us know how it works for you!

Sleep Meditation for Children

January 19, 2011

Getting me to bed was a long routine for my mother. She’d have me all tucked in and start to leave my room and then I’d say, “Mommy, I want some water”. Off she’d go for water, and once I’d had that, she’d be on her way again. My next ploy for keeping her near was — “leave a crack in the door”. She’d leave the door a little open and I’d say “bigger”, and she’d open it a bit further and start to step away. “It’s too big, make it smaller”, I’d say. You can see where this is going! I’m not sure how she would finally make an exit, but I do remember what was going on inside me. I was anxious!

I haven’t thought about this for years, not until I started recording this new podcast (Sleep Meditation for Children). I wanted to go back and remember and get into my child world. What would have helped me if I could have had a guided meditation back then? I tried to speak to the child that I was, and this new podcast offering is what resulted. It is designed to help a child settle into bed and relax into sleep. For children who are fearful at bedtime, there is an added element of a “make believe friend” to help them feel reassured.

Please listen to the meditation first and see if you feel it will be suitable for your child. It’s for fairly young children. I’m sure you’ll check to see if your child liked it after the first time they hear it, and see if he or she has a question about what something means. Like all guided meditations, this will work for some and not others. I do hope, though, that it will send lots of children off to sleepyland feeling relaxed, safe and loved.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with it here. And it’s fine if you use it as an adult. We’ve all still got the child we were within us!

In life, as in music, the pauses make all the difference

September 30, 2009

These words — “in life, as in music, the pauses make all the difference” — floated into my mind a few weeks back. I tweeted them on Twitter and started a post about them. The post has been saved as a draft since then, barely started and abandoned. Checking in with my drafts today, the words were quite welcome, as I am in a place where I need to pause. There have simply been too many things going on and my mind and body need a break. Reading these words was a good reminder, since everything in our culture demands that we constantly do, do, do, and then do some more.

We think that when we pause — whether for a brief break or a week-long retreat — we are losing time that could be used productively. We think we’re making progress when we’re in motion — moving forward, as it were, on our way to our goal. In reality, it’s often when we pause that the most progress is made. It’s common wisdom that discoveries are made and insights come when we stop working on something and let it go. Inspiration and insight spring from deep within. They can’t be reached through mental focus, thinking and logic. They are accessed when the mind is relaxed and creativity can flow.

Pauses refresh and renew, hence they actually contribute to our productivity. But even more important, they bring balance and an enjoyable rhythm to life. We can’t live at all without the long pause of sleep or even the tiny pause between the breaths. Pauses give life. Why not honor and allow ourselves to relax into them completely? Today, instead of lamenting the fact that I need to take some time off, I’m relishing the hours ahead. And when I’ve had enough r and r, I’ll relish plunging back into work.

In music, it’s the pauses that make the rhythms. It’s in the pauses that the notes settle in and have time to reverberate in our hearts. It’s in life’s pauses that we find the silent background of our being. Today I shall delight in pauses!

Copyright © 2006-2014 Mary and Richard Maddux. Meditation Oasis is a registered trademark.