As I venture through my late 20s, I'm continually trying out new self-care routines and experimenting with practices for spiritual wellness. From sound baths to face massages toblindfoldedyoga, I've tried a lot to find a healthy balance in my life. No matter how many new tools I try orkombuchasI drink, there's one thing that always makes me feel better than anything else. Sleep.
For a while, I was survivingoff ofonly five-to-six hours of sleep because I'd get up at6 a.m.before my day job to work on my side job. This strategy worked for a few months, and I thought I had figured out the key to my success. I was insanely productive, and I had all this time in the evening to go to events or try something new—likea crystal healing bed.
That was, of course, until my sleep deprivation hit me (and it hit me hard). I wassuperirritable. I lost my motivation. I was up to four cups of coffee a day. I stopped wanting to go to yoga after work because I was too tired, and I told myself that Friends was going to beoff ofNetflix soon, so that was the better call.
The hustle got to me, and I was officially out of alignment. I finally realized the culprit of my problems when I went to a panel on sleep and heard about all the intense side effects (short and long-term) that a lack of sleep can have on the human body. I was shook, and I immediately ordered "Why We Sleep" by Matthew Walker. Needless to say, that book shook me a little more.
If you've read it, you know that the first chapter is an uncomfortable wake-up call, but it was something I needed. I sent an intention to get serious about my sleep habits to quite literally save myself from the downward slope I was on. It had gotten so bad at this point, though, that it was tough to fall asleep any earlier than my typical "bedtime."
Luckily, around this same time, my influencer friend in Florida (@sunkissedindecember) recommendedInsight Timerfor meditation. I decided to see what they had for sleep and hit the jackpot. I started listening to a medley of different meditation sleep music and sleep meditations to convince my tired mind that it wasOKto rest.
I did a lot of other things, too, like being as consistent as possible about when I went to sleep/woke up, keeping my phone at a distance, lavender aromatherapy, not hitting snooze, etc. Still, the most significant impact on my sleep was the blankets of sound I introduced into my routine that lulled me to sleep.
What Are the Benefits of Using Meditation Sleep Music?
Sleep doctor and sleep psychologist, Dr. Janet Kennedy, offers her take. "Meditation sleep music can help promote sleep by giving the mind something to focus on—away from anxiety and racing thoughts—while the body relaxes. With repetition, the meditation sleep music becomes a conditioned stimulus or trigger. The mind remembers that it has relaxed in response to the meditation sleep music before, and it starts to automatically relax when the music starts (sort of like the way we can get hungry when we look at food even when we are full). Certain types of meditation sleep music or sounds may be particularly helpful, such as nature sounds or binaural beats, because they may have specific effects on brain waves."
How long do you keep it on? Dr. Kennedy suggests setting the meditation sleep music to shut off at some point because "the brain attends to sounds even when unconscious and that can alter the quality of sleep. I recommend using white noise during the night because there is no variation of sound for the brain to attend to."
What About Settings? Are There Ideal Ones for Meditation Sleep Music?
Burke thinks yes. "Typically, you would want a cool, quiet, possibly dark or dimmed area to practice in. A place that makes you feel safe and calm. But as that could mean different things to different people, I would say anything that helps aid in your own personal relaxation andde-stressingis best. I personally need a comfortable blanket and a dark room. I do my own meditation as I'm lying down in bed. I find it helps me drift off, so I prefer to already be in bed and ready for sleep when it comes."
Dr. Kennedy suggests thinking of the bedroom as a sanctuary. "It's important to keep work, screens, and stress triggers out so that the room feels like a refuge from the day. It should also be cool and dark. A comfortable, supportive mattress and pillow make a huge difference as well by relieving body tension that contributes to stress."
What Results Should You Expect From Meditation Sleep Music?
I know, for me, I was able to get back on a regular sleep schedule and return to alignment with my mind, body, and soul. Especially on stressful days, using meditation sleep music made me lookforwardto bedtime rather than the moment of dread when you pour all your stressful thoughts onto the pillow.
For Jana Roemer, it was Yoga Nidra that completely overhauled her inner experience too. "The chatter of my mind has lessened and evolved into a much healthier expression,self-trustis elevated, and that pesky inner critic that I nearly succumbed to accepting would be a forever companion has quietly packed her bags and moved out. The practice itself shows the pathway to a surrender experience that teaches everything, including what it really means to be open to receive. That what I am seeking is truly seeking me." Which brings me to one of my favorite meditations for sleep: Yoga Nidra.
What is Yoga Nidra?
"Yoga Nidra is the practice of guided relaxation or yogic sleeping. It employsmeditationto improve sleep quality and help the practitioner drift off to sleep faster and easier. The form [of yoga] is very gentle and meant to relax and de-stress, making it very accessible even for beginners," says Carolyn Burke,campaign managerforThe SleepAdvisorand Certified Sleep Coach.
To get granular on the specifics of Yoga Nidra, I spoke toAshley Matejka. Matejka is a Holistic Wellness Advocate & Yoga Nidra Facilitator.
"Yoga Nidra takes you through the brain wave levels. Starting in beta, which is an alert waking state. Then moving to alpha where you experience quietly flowing thoughts. From alpha, you go into theta brain wave state. This is the dream state where creativity flows and structures in the brain change. Super learning, emotional integration, and release happen here. After theta, you are guided to delta or dreamless sleep. This is the most restorative state in which your organs regenerate, and the stress hormone cortisol is removed from your system. From delta, you are guided into gamma. This is a state of pure consciousness where your brain is focused and insightful. Not everyone who practices Yoga Nidra touches this state, but the more you practice, the closer you will get to it."
And a little less granular? In Sanskrit, Yoga translates "to unite," and Nidra translates to "sleep." So Yoga Nidra is literally the yoga of sleep.
What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra?
There are so many positives to using Yoga Nidra as a sleep meditation.Jana Roemer, Yoga Teacher & Midwife of Awakening, shared the expansive advantages of Yoga Nidra.
It puts our Autonomic Nervous System (AMS) into a state of coherence where it then begins to signal the rest of our vital systems that we are safe, and they can all allocate their attention to restoring balance and excellent health. This includes our digestion, our cardiovascular system, and our endocrine system. If all of these systems are receiving the same messages of healing from the nervous system, healing can happen on a profoundly deep level.
We are allowed to pause, rest deeply, and take a break from the inner chaos. Here we often gain perspective that will enable us to moveforwardwith more clarity, amplify creativity, and focus our productivity.
We expand our range of emotions, which essentially creates the inner pathways that allow the fullest spectrum of emotion to flow with equal velocity and without fear of getting lost in emotion. So often, people resist feeling what needs to be felt to heal, integrate, and eventually release to be healed. The more we let this energy flow, the less stuck we are in life.
We remember through felt experience that we are infinite and that there is support available to us from the universe. We also become much better at understanding our own sovereignty and our ability to create the life we dream of living. We get to meet ourselves in a much more intimate and pure way that builds resiliency and trust in self.
What About Other Sleep Meditations?
KedSuri, Founder ofthe Yogi Press, offered this self-guided sleep meditation. "First, lie down, face up with the eyes closed, and breathe deeply for a few moments. Once the breathing is deep and you're calm and relaxed, inhale, and tense all the muscles in the body at the same time for about 3-5 seconds. Ensure the tension is felt everywhere, even in the face. Then release while you exhale.
Repeat the process three times, and when done, go back to deep breathing for a few minutes. Once you feel entirely relaxed, repeat your resolution or mantra for the day, such as I am joyful, or my mind and heart will remain opentoday."
A personal favorite alternate of mine? Putting on binaural beats as a personal meditation for sleep that instantly relaxes.
So whether you throw on some ocean sounds, meditation sleep music, practice Yoga Nidra, play binaural beats, or just practice deep breathing, I encourage you to makesleepa priority.And with that, sweet dreams.