How to Meditate in Bed for a Better Night’s Sleep

How to meditate in bed: open book on a bed

You snooze, you lose. A phrase used to describe missing out on something if you don’t act. Or, more literally, something used by smug people who think getting by on just a few hours sleep a night is an accomplishment. Even though we know that sleep is as important to our well-being as diet and exercise, Calm app’s founder Michael Acton Smith says it’s the most disrespected, claiming, “it’s almost a badge of honour to talk about how little sleep you get”.

Regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep a night can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. On the other hand, getting enough sleep of a high quality brings a range of benefits, including reducing stress levels and looking after your immune system. Not to mention, feeling more ready to take on the day and being less likely to fall asleep at your desk at 3pm.

It’s time to take sleep seriously. From creating the optimum sleep space to switching off from technology at least an hour before bed, there are many ways to optimise your sleep. Sleep advocates, such as Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global, also praise the importance of a consistent and relaxing bedtime ritual. When creating a nighttime routine, meditation can become a useful tool to help you drift off. In an era where millenia-old mindfulness techniques have become digitally accessible for all through apps, we explore how to meditate in bed for a better night’s sleep.

How to Meditate in Bed

1. Understanding When to Meditate

Meditating before you fall asleep can help relax your mind and make you more aware of any tension. That said, Headspace, one of the leading meditation apps, reminds us that, “good quality Zzzzzzzs require much more than doing a simple meditation in bed.” Restful sleep can depend on our mindset during the entire day, not just the period before we switch off the lights. For this reason, Headspace designed a 30-day sleep course with exercises to do during the day which team up with a specific sleep meditation to do before bed. So, meditating during the day could also pay off at night, when you’re hitting the sack.

2. Preparing to Meditate

We all know that trying to force sleep when we feel we need it most, rarely helps us fall asleep – instead, we’re left frustrated. It’s recommended that you try to maintain a relaxed focus and ensure you won’t be disturbed. After you’ve done everything you need to do before going to sleep, lie comfortably on your back. Take a few deep breaths to begin calming the body.

3. Choose your Guided Meditation Technique for Sleep

There are both guided and unguided meditation exercises. If you’re just starting out, trying guided meditations via one of the popular apps, can be a great way to dip your toe into meditation for sleep. Guided sleep meditations can involve different techniques, including:

  • Body Scan: notice different body parts and any contact they have with the bed. What feels heavy? Slowly scan through the body to ‘switch off’ each area ready for sleep, starting with the toes before moving up.
  • Day Review: remember and relive each event in your day in detail, starting with getting ready and having your breakfast. Spend around 20 seconds on each event.
  • Silence: after a particularly busy day, lie in silence to try to find focus.
  • Mindful Breathing: this focuses on slowing your breathing a little and easing anxiety, sometimes by counting breaths. For example, count one on the inhale and two on the exhale, until you reach ten. Then, start again from one.
  • Visualisation: imagining a scene can help you focus. Popular spiritual teacher Sonia Choquette suggests using colour as a visual aid. Each time you inhale and exhale, imagine a colour, then, switch to another colour on the next breath, and so on.

Still wondering if meditation apps are worth a try? A 2018 trial compared 35 adults who completed ten introductory Headspace sessions over the course of a month with another 35 adults who listened to excerpts from founder Puddicombe’s audiobook. After just 100 minutes of meditation, the first group of adults found themselves experiencing more positive emotions and felt less pressured by their responsibilities, compared to the audiobook group. With meditation apps making the practice more accessible than ever before, it’s a great time to try using mindfulness in your bedtime routine for better sleep.

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This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. January’s theme is Slow Living & Sleep.

Discover more about slow living.

4 Tips to Optimise Your Sleep

Book and cup of tea of a white duvet

According to research from insurers Aviva, 48% of UK adults admit to not getting enough sleep. And, a study of approximately 15,000 people by bed specialists, Dreams, adds that 27.8% of respondents say they never wake up feeling refreshed. Given this, it’s unsurprising that Pinterest’s 2019 trends report shows that there are quite a few of us who are interested in making changes to sleep better. Searches for ‘sleep optimisation’ have increased by 116%. With a huge influence on our health, mood and caffeine intake, these people know that sleep shouldn’t be put in last place. We share four tips to improve and optimise your sleep, taking inspiration from a trend that we hope will be sticking around.

4 Sleep Optimisation Tips for a Better Night’s Rest

1. Create Consistent Sleep Times

Research by The Sleep Council reveals that 7% of us don’t have a regular bedtime and almost a fifth go to bed after midnight. According to Sleep.org, ‘our bodies crave consistency’. In other words, creating routines helps our bodies prepare for different activities or events. Prone to waking up at the same time or just before your alarm, even on weekends? That could indicate that your body has adjusted to your wake-up time and is making you feel more alert. 

But, you don’t need to strive for a perfect sleep pattern, every single night. In conversation with Healthline, Michael Twery, PhD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, reminds us that a few late nights here and there is normal, but, “if we’re regularly working against how our biology is organized, our bodies will find it hard to function”.

How, then, do you develop a consistent bedtime? Aside from exploring the following tips that discuss ways to wind down, Sleep.org recommends making gradual adjustments towards your ideal sleep and wake-up times. Adjust your bedtime by 15 minutes each day to give your body a chance to catch-up, rather than trying (and probably failing miserably) to get up at 6am straightaway.

2. Optimise Your Sleeping Space

While it’s fairly obvious, it’s worth mentioning that our sleeping environment affects our sleep quality. Factors that influence our sleep environment could be light, sound and temperature, among others.

The Sleep Council suggests a cool bedroom temperature of 16-18°C, as body heat reaches its highest levels in the evening and then drops to its lowest while we sleep. Light and dark can also impact your circadian rhythm (internal body clock). It’s advised to dim lights before bed and invest in some good curtains, or an eye mask. And if you’ve got noisy neighbours, it might be worth sourcing some earplugs. 

Bedside table with terrazzo lamp, candle, eye mask and book

3. Switch Off Your Screens

It’s not just lightbulbs that can interrupt our circadian rhythm, our smartphones and screens emit a blue light that can keep our bodies feeling alert. If you’re using your phone in bed, the blue light emitted emulates sunlight and suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin, which should increase naturally when we’re preparing to sleep.

Digital distractions, in the form of emails or other notifications, can also keep our minds feeling alert. Checking our phones before going to bed can extend the stress we try to leave in the office to our bedrooms, and prevent us from really switching off when we need to most. You may also feel stimulated or energised when replying to messages from friends.

It’s recommended to digital detox (stop using all forms of screens) one hour before going to sleep. Try charging your phone outside of your bedroom if you’re prone to checking it in the night or, on the flipside, if you tend to procrastinate getting up by checking your feeds first thing in the morning.

4. Design a Bedtime Ritual

If you’re not scrolling on your phone or watching TV, what else can you do with that last hour before bed? While many discuss the impact of a strong morning ritual, the importance of an evening routine can’t be overlooked.

When it comes to the topic of getting enough sleep, it’s almost impossible not to mention Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global and author of The Sleep Revolution. After fainting with exhaustion in 2007, Arianna has become an ambassador for talking about sleep deprivation and encouraging the notion that to succeed, a good night’s sleep is incredibly important. 

Talking to The Telegraph, Arianna claims, “I treat my transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual”. She turns off her digital devices at a certain time each evening before removing them from her bedroom. Later, she enjoys a hot bath with Epsom salts and a candle. And, finally, just before drifting off to sleep, she’ll focus on the things she’s grateful for at that moment. This mindful practice, according to Arianna, means that, “my blessings, not my worries, get the closing scene of the night.”

So, taking it from the sleep guru herself, a bedtime ritual doesn’t need to be overly complicated, just relaxing and respected every evening. Reading, yoga, meditation and physically keeping a gratitude journal are other popular choices.

In addition to a relaxing bedtime ritual, getting a good night’s sleep begins with working towards consistent sleep and wake times, optimising your bedroom environment and unplugging from screens. Ready to give these tips a try? 


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. January’s theme is Slow Living & Sleep.

Discover more about slow living.

A Year of Living Slower, January: Slow Living & Sleep

Bedside table with terrazzo lamp, candle, eye mask and book

A Year of Living Slower is an experiment inspired by creating small, specific lifestyle changes and tweaks to try and improve overall well being and happiness, rather than striving for unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. During the year, we’re sharing 12 monthly themes inspired by slow living. Each discusses ideas around living better and more mindfully in the city and beyond. The first month, January, focuses on sleep, something that often loses out in our busy lives.

The Importance of Repaying Your Sleep Debt

We all know that a bad night’s sleep leaves us feeling irritable and looking tired. But, what about the effects of sustained poor sleep? Many consider sleep to be a period where our minds effectively switch off, but that’s not the case. Sleep is an active state where important processes take place, such as memory consolidation. A University of Chicago study found that student volunteers who were asked to sleep for only four hours a night for six days developed higher blood pressure and levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. They also produced 50% fewer antibodies to the flu vaccine, compared to normal. This study goes some way to explain why we get ill more easily when we’re stressed and not getting enough sleep in the short term, and why chronic poor sleep is linked to a higher risk of diabetes, strokes and heart disease in the long term.

Making Sleep Sacred Again

Deep down, we probably know these things too. Yet, we still sacrifice sleep and accept bad moods to meet deadlines, or just binge watch our favourite series. Most of us are probably racking up a hefty sleep debt, a cumulative sleep deficit that takes time to repay.

Is there a magic formula for sleep? Some of the world’s most successful people are early risers, but only around a fifth of us find it easy to get up early. And some, including many influential entrepreneurs and statespeople, can get by on as little as four hours sleep a night. This shows us that the recipe for a good night’s sleep is different for everyone, although, eight hours is often regarded as average.

With most habits, it’s sensible to make gradual changes if you want them to stick. The National Sleep Foundation suggest following the Rule of 15 to become a morning person. Adjust your bedtime or wake-up time by 15 minutes a day, rather than setting your alarm for 6am and expecting to skip merrily to the gym. But, adjusting sleep times is just the beginning. January’s A Year of Living Slower challenge explores the following ideas around sleep optimisation, in turn helping us to recharge and feel better prepared to achieve our other goals:

  • Create consistent wake and sleep times
  • Design a mindful, slow living-inspired bedtime or wind-down ritual
  • Focus on less scrolling and more reading
  • Spring clean your sleep space

Although often outspoken, one particular quote by American businessman T. Boone Pickens is worth noting in this context: Work eight hours and sleep eight hours and make sure that they are not the same hours.” While work-life balance can be considered a myth and always achieving a perfect night’s sleep challenging, refraining from letting work hours engulf sleep hours is a good place to start. Are you ready to start A Year of Living Slower?

#AYearOfLivingSlower

A Year of Living Slower: 12 Monthly Resolutions for 2019

2019 bullet journal spread on a bed

Definition: New Year’s resolution (n). – A firm decision made on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to do or refrain from doing something over the course of the coming year.

Much like the goals we set for ourselves, the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition of a New Year’s resolution is non-specific. We might decide to exercise more, eat better, or become more mindful, but we rarely outline the granular, more achievable steps to actually get there. Perhaps, that’s why so many of us give up on our new plans by mid January, or forget about them altogether.

Andrew Ferebee, Founder of Knowledge For Men, would agree. He argues that one of the main reasons we fail to form new habits is because we’re attempting to do too much, too soon. Similarly, James Clear, author, entrepreneur and photographer, encourages embracing the impact of small gains. He explains that making a 1% daily improvement will help your motivation and willpower improve overtime, thus also making it more likely that you’ll stick to your new habit in the long run.

A Year of Living Slower: An Experiment to Live Better

The majority of our New Year’s resolutions aim to make us feel happier or healthier in some way, but often as Ferebee mentions, we’re impatient to reach the end goal which results in us setting unrealistic targets. To apply some slow living principles to this conundrum, we’re considering the small, specific changes we can gradually build up to try and improve our health and happiness in an achievable way.

We’ve designed A Year of Living Slower, a year of 12 monthly experiments that responds to today’s fast pace of life and focuses on improving well being by being more present and making conscious decisions.

January: Slow Living & Sleep

January explores the importance of sleep for our health and discusses the impact of creating bedtime rituals.

February: Slow Sundays

February embraces the idea of scheduling downtime and discusses ideas for slow living-inspired Sundays.

March: Slow Food

March encourages us to see joy in the mindful process of cooking from scratch and being conscious of where our produce has come from.

April: Slow Living & Getting Outdoors

April embraces the great outdoors and the power of getting back to nature during Spring.

May: Slow Travel

May talks about the power of a change of scenery and how to enjoy each destination more deeply.

June: Slow Tech

June explores our relationship with technology and how smartphones have created an always-on culture.

July: Slow Living & Seeing Things Differently

July focuses on the impact of making small changes to your routine and being more mindful on your commute.

August: Slow Summer Evenings

August encourages us to spend as much time outside as possible and make the most of the longer evenings.

September: Slow City

September discusses ways to slow down the rat race and explores London’s quiet spots.

October: Slow & Sustainable

October reflects on conscious decisions we can make to live more sustainably.

November: Slow Living & Self-Care

November encourages us to consider ways we can embrace moments of self-care and combine learnings from previous months.

December: Slow Christmas

December shares ideas around a more meaningful and mindful Christmas.

Every month, we’ll share ideas for embracing each slow living-inspired theme in London and beyond. Instead of setting unattainable New Year’s resolutions, we hope this experiment, which is slow in nature, will outline areas where we can individually benefit from making small changes and focus on living better, rather than faster. Get involved and share your experiences with the hashtag #AYearOfLivingSlower.