Sleepless nights is a reality for many of us in today’s dynamic societies. The causes of insomnia are many and varied, ranging from medical conditions like allergies, bodily pains and breathing problems to psychological ailments like stress, depression and anxiety.
Another important thing that contributes to sleep quality is lifestyle, i.e. what you do during the day, your everyday habits definitely affects how you sleep during the night.
However, it is safe to say that for many people, when it comes to insomnia, the main culprit is almost always an overactive mind. Our ability to relax and wind down when we’re on our bed at night becomes the main challenge of the day, when it shouldn’t be. Why is this the case? Well because our thoughts are still racing about like its “daytime survival mode” when it’s not.
One insight which I’ve found to be meaningful during my years living and learning on this planet is that the psychological mind is almost exclusively a self-preserving mechanism, meaning that almost every thought and mental process is aimed towards preserving your identity as a psychological separate self. Consequently, I’ve also learnt that to handle this “monkey mind” is one of the main challenges of modern man.
Now whatever the case may be, physiological and/or psychological, relaxation is essential for inducing a good night’s sleep, but relaxation also seems like a rare commodity amongst us modern people. Unfortunate but who could really blame us, we’re constantly bombarded with distractions. Because you must know by now that living in the age of information also means living in the age of distractions. But don’t fret, you can train yourself, through practice and awareness, to realize deeper relaxations in the body and mind, which will not only benefit your sleep but your life as a whole.
In this article I’ve decided to first investigate how and why meditation can help with sleeping better and secondly share some of the best free guided meditations available on YouTube.
How and Why Meditation Can Improve Sleep
Meditation and medicine. Both words have similar roots and the goal in many ways seems to be same, namely health and wellbeing. Whereas medicine works mainly in the field of physical health, meditation does most of its work in the psyche or the mind and emotional dimensions of man.
With that said, here’s 5 reasons why meditation can help you sleep better:
- Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. After sufficient training, the overactive mind is gradually relaxed into the state of natural presence. How? Mainly by you creating a gap between you as an observer and the thoughts as phenomena/objects arising in consciousness.
- Meditation works against depression. For many people, meditation is an effective way of combating depressive tendencies in your mind and overall personality. I sometimes like to view meditation as a formless shield that emerges from your core, a shield that keeps depressive and negative thought patterns at bay from your innermost self, a place of relaxation and joyous serenity.
- Meditation is relaxing. Simple as that. Especially guided meditations, that is if you’ve found a good one with a guide that has a soothing voice and knows what he/she’s talking about. We’ve got you covered in that department in just a moment!
- Meditation can help lessen physical pains that may be causing the insomnia. There are a couple studies that show how meditation can help reduce the subjective sense of pain, which could be either through neurological changes taking place in the brain or simply by the shift of the attention.
- Meditation allows for spiritual insights into your true nature. For many people spirituality is nonsense while for others it’s the primary stuff of life. Meditation can allow for the spiritual seeker to align its sense of separation with the natural unity of existence. This will affect your life as a whole, not only your sleep. How? Mainly through seeing through the shenanigans of the psychological separate self or the commentator in your mind. In other words, the ego will no longer be granted a front row seat to the theater of life, you’ll reclaim your throne as the master of your own palace.
6 Best Free Guided Meditations in 2020
There are different types of guided meditations for sleep, while some focus on inducing deep relaxations through background audio like binaural beats and ambience others use hypnosis and carefully picked words to induce sleep.
Each person is unique in what works for them, thus I suggest that you try listening to a couple different ones till you find your match. Personally for me, yoga nidra has worked best when it comes to deep relaxations that naturally lead to rest and sleep.
1. Yoga Nidra for Rest, Relaxation and Sleep
- Duration: 22 minutes
- Voice: Soothing and peaceful female voice
- Focus: Stress, tense muscles, anxiety and depression
This is one of my favorite guided meditations for falling asleep fast and smoothly. This guided meditation features a soothing female voice that takes you through the different stages of awareness and visualization of body and mind in order to induce quality sleep naturally.
Yoga Nidra is an ancient yogic technique(s) that combines meditative awareness with visualization techniques in order to relax the body and mind organically.
One of the main benefits of yoga nidra is that it can be done by anyone, especially if you have a competent guide like this featured below. By calming the nerves and releasing negative patterns of thought and emotion, Yoga Nidra is especially good for those that are battling anxiety, stress or depression in their lives.
2. Stress Relief and Relaxation to Fall Asleep at Bedtime
- Duration: 25 minutes
- Voice: Calming deep male voice
- Focus: Stress-relief and relaxing through visualizations
If you’re looking for an uplifting and stress-relieving guided meditation that will make you fall asleep quick, this one by TrackstoRelax is a great one. The guide has a deep male voice with an neutral or slightly American accent.
By being aware of the breath and visualizing natural scenes with you comfortably in them will make you sleepy in no time. Give it a try!
3. Positive Affirmations and Self-Love for Sleep
- Duration: 120 minutes
- Voice: Soothing and hypnotic female voice
- Focus: Love and positive feelings to help you relax and sleep
If you’re one that struggles to love yourself, if you’re one that’s habitually too hard on yourself, this following guided meditation might be the right one for you. This one by Nicky Sutton is good for boosting your self-respect, self-love and general wellbeing. So often the thoughts in our heads are of a negative nature, and what’s needed is simply a way to counter that with a more balanced way of seeing, feeling and perceiving. Sometimes we need help to do this, this is where guided meditations are useful. Try this one.
4. Binaural Beats for Deep Relaxation
- Duration: 5 hours
- Voice: No human voice
- Focus: Deep general relaxation
Though binaural beats is not a guided meditation per say, and the reason that I featured this is because sometimes we don’t need words and verbal guidance to lead us where we need to go, the background music and binaural beats speak their own language which we intuitively understand. Binaural beat therapy is a type of sound wave therapy that sends two different frequency tones to each ear, which also means that binaural beats work best when using headphones or speakers that are located at opposite sides of the bed, that is if you’ve got the resources.
5. Ho’oponopono (Hawaiian Prayer) for Healing, Forgiveness & Sleep
- Duration: 60 minutes
- Voice: Gentle male voice, Australian accent
- Focus: Emotional healing
If you’re looking for a gentle male voice with an australian accent as a guide (specific, I know), Jason Stephenson is the right guy. In this guided meditation, Stephenson recites an ancient Hawaiian prayer and practice of reconciliation and forgiveness called Ho’oponopono. The prayer is based on the old Hawaiian belief that everything in existence is connected to each other through something called “aka”, which is an ether-like substance through which the energy of life flows. When this energy stops flowing harmoniously this causes pains, problems and other troubles to take place in our collective lives.
Ho’oponopono focuses mainly on the emotional dimensions and teaches you to take responsibility, cultivate understanding and thus how to heal through living more in harmony with nature and the society which you find yourself in. In most cases, when you live more harmoniously, sleep will come naturally and effortlessly.
Stephenson’s recordings are available for free on YouTube and there are many of them, make sure to check his stuff out!
6. Chakra Balance for Positive Energy
- Duration: 10 minutes
- Voice: Male voice, British accent
- Focus: Positive energy through visualization of the chakras in the body
Visualization is a powerful mental tool we have at our disposal, a tool like most other tools can be used for both good and bad. In many ways our capacity to visualize and play with ideas was/is responsible for the technological advancements that led us to the information age.
This chakra visualization guided meditation can be good for inducing sleep by allowing you to (1) be more positive about things happening in your life and (2) by visualizing different body parts to allow for localized relaxations infused with positivity.
Even if you’re not into the whole spiritual narration behind the concept of chakras, you can still benefit from the technique. See it as a mental exercise or even a play instead of something that you have to believe exists.
Meditation for inducing better sleep deserves more recognition as an effective form of treatment. While it may not work for all, for some the space and serenity that meditation brings helps them significantly in their day to day life and when they lay their head on the pillow each night.
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet, as he is currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.