Where Om’s Meet Zzz’s
It’s four in the morning, and you’re wide awake. Every anxious thought you managed to distract yourself from by day comes creeping in. And now you’re also worried about not getting enough sleep. You count the hours until your alarm will ring, add up the hours you’ve slept so far, subtract from eight, and grow angry at the impossibility of any of this adding up to a good night’s sleep. You try to march your mind back into sleepiness by counting backward or trying to remember the names of everyone in your first-grade class — all in a desperate attempt to nod off.
But this early morning period of wakefulness, so dreaded by insomniacs, is actually courted by meditation masters, monks, and mystics who wake before dawn to meditate in the quiet and stillness of these early hours.
Meanwhile, most of us can’t seem to find time to meditate during our busy days. Even 20 minutes seems like too much when you have work, family responsibilities, a home to care for, and social engagements to fulfill. But at four o’clock in the morning, there’s nothing on the calendar, no phones ringing, and the laptop is sleeping — even if you aren’t. So why not use this time to meditate like the monks and mystics do?
After all, meditation is a proven natural and effective antidote to insomnia. Plus, it’s better to feel a little holy rather than wholly frustrated when you’re wide awake as your loved one snores serenely by your side.
Unlike in formal meditation, when it’s considered bad form and a sign of flagging focus to doze off, when you meditate on the mattress for relaxation, falling asleep is an added bonus. Plus, if you do slip into sleep directly from meditation, you’re more likely to experience clear and, sometimes, even lucid or luminous dreams.
Then again, if you don’t fall asleep, you’ve still managed to meditate, thus achieving an equally beneficial outcome. And since brain scans of people in deep meditation resemble those of people in deep sleep, you’re likely to start the day feeling rested, too.
Effort is the enemy of sleep. So, stop trying so hard to catch some z’s. Instead, bring the wisdom of meditation and simple relaxation techniques to bed with you.
On the Pillow
You can sit up in bed and meditate or lie on your back with your arms at your sides (think savasana, or relaxation pose, from yoga class). You may prefer to rest the palms of your hands on your abdomen, which can help you feel calm.
Count Breaths, Not Thoughts
The late-night brain is notably low on serotonin and other neurochemicals that help boost your mood by day. So nighttime — when your mind is likely to devolve into pessimism and negative thinking — is no time to ponder problems. Instead, count your breaths, starting at 10 and working backward. When you get to 1, start at 10 again, repeating the process until you doze off. Bring your full attention to each number as you count down, leaving no room in your mind for worrisome thoughts.
Keep an MP3 or CD player loaded with ready-to-play guided meditations by your bed. When you can’t sleep, just press play, listen, and relax. (To find some good, recorded meditations, do an Internet search or ask a yoga or meditation teacher for suggestions.)
TEXT EXCERPTED FROM THE MINDFUL WAY TO A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP © 2017 BY TZIVIA GOVER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. A version of this Post was originally shared on Storey Publishing’s Blog.
May you sleep and dream well.
© 2010-2021 Tzivia Gover, all rights reserved