In today’s hustle culture time seems to be the most elusive commodity. Successful influencers, writers, and entrepreneurs alike inflate the importance of productive daily routines all for the sake of reaping more time.

One of the most obvious obstacles in our ongoing search for time is an unavoidable necessity of human nature: our need for sleep. Foregoing a night’s sleep would earn the average person an extra eight hours of precious time. Unfortunately, if you’re of human origin, a sleepless lifestyle is physically impossible to sustain.

While waiting for a solution to our physiological reliance on sleep, meditation may just offer a solution. The alleged benefits of meditation are manifold. Celebrities including Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and Oprah herself has long talked up the advantages of meditation in promoting restfulness, mental acuity, and overall well being.

But in recent years, research has shed light on meditations ability to recoup the restlessness of sleep in mere minutes. In one 2010 study, researchers looked at the amount of sleep and mental acuity of experienced meditators compared to a group of non-meditators. They found that meditators who slept an average of 5.2 hours per night, tested equally as well on their mental performance as the non-meditator group who clocked in 7.8 hours of sleep.

In another more recent study that considered overall mental wellbeing, just 15 minutes of meditation was associated with similar effects as a day of vacation. Participants reported lower levels of negative thinking and higher levels of well-being. The researchers found similar associations on days the participants were on vacation, indicating meditation’s ability to compress the time it takes to reach a state of total relaxation.

An expert weighs in

According to meditation expert Julie Sacks, one 45 minute session of meditation packs in an astonishing four hours of sleep. But how is this ‘restfulness’ qualified?  Ladders caught up with Sacks at her flagship Vie Meditation center located on the rooftop of Hotel Rivington in downtown Manhattan to find out.

Sacks is a Certified Vedic Meditation Teacher specializing in meditation practice Yoga Nidra, also known as Yogic Sleep. A one-hour session is said to induce total physical, mental, and emotional relaxation. “One Yoga Nidra session gives you a huge amount of restfulness. Yogendra is the art of conscious relaxation. It allows your body to truly let go. Your mind is still at the point where it’s still awake, but your body is in a state of total relaxation,” said Sacks.

Before founding Vie Meditation, Sacks suffered from chronic stress working in a traditional corporate setting. As she wrote in a Huffington Post article, her life before discovering meditation was dictated by panic attacks, occurring at the most inconvenient times such as company meetings.

“I went to a more traditional therapist who told me I should be on medication. I knew that decision was not for me. I realized that the only way out is through… I flirted with meditation for a long time before I took it seriously. I didn’t keep it as an ongoing practice until much later in my life.”

“Life is moving so much faster than ever. We have so much information coming at us at every moment. We’re evolving, but not fast enough to keep up that pace. Meditation really allows one to really let go.”

One of the greatest appeals of meditation is that it can be done virtually anywhere. So you can’t use the excuse of not having enough ‘free-time’; meditation can be practiced on your morning commute, at your desk at work, or in bed after a long day. It all comes down to consistency. According to Sacks, starting and ending the day with an intention is a key principle of meditation.

“The mind is a muscle. The key to meditation is making it a habit or practice. Meditation is like an internal vision board. You can meditate anywhere. It’s as simple as sitting up in bed in the morning and taking 5 – 10 really deep breaths. Start the day with a clear intention. Every day should be a clean slate. Your life experience is whatever you put out in these few minutes of intention setting. It’s all about starting. Start small, and build upon it.”

A “youthful” brain

If regained restfulness and mental clarity aren’t enough to induce you to try meditation, you may find be compelled by its alleged anti-aging properties. That’s right, meditation may also work on a cellular level. A study by researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience found that deep breathing meditation techniques stimulated the release of noradrenaline, a brain chemical that both improves focus and helps the brain to stay “youthful” by stimulating connections between cells. 

According to Sacks, Yoga Nidra  (sleep focused meditation) works in the same way. “It’s my favorite anti-aging meditation. A single session is proven to relax you on a deep cellular level, mitigating the effects of the stress effects that coincide with aging. It’s better than any anti-aging pill you could buy,” said Sacks. 

While more research needs to be done to confirm the purported benefits of meditation, it definitely couldn’t hurt to try. After all, allowing yourself a few minutes of silence a day is far less costly or risk-averse than other mental coping mechanisms.

Originally published on The Ladders

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