Meditation is a mindfulness technique that has been used for centuries - some claim as far back as 1,500 B.C. - but the practice has spread and become increasingly popular not just in India and China, but all over the world.
In fact, research found that in 2012, 18 million people were believed to use meditation and that number has increased significantly, to an estimation between 200 and 500 million people worldwide.
Certainly there are a number of ways we can slow our minds and wind down before going to bed, but meditation is something that helps us sleep not just before bed, but throughout the day, leading up to bed time. Read on to discover the many ways meditation helps us get those much-needed Zzz's.
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It Changes Your Brain
Our brains contain a specific region called the amygdala that stores memories of events in our lives that caused us to respond with the flight-or-flight response. It is a natural, self-preservation response to stimuli. Researchers found that the amygdala in individuals who practiced regular mindfulness meditations, began to shrink, leading to less stress and overreaction to stressors.
Additionally, regular meditation can assist in controlling pain and, when practiced regularly, leads to a calmer, more peaceful mind. Since it can be difficult to fall asleep after a stressful day, training yourself to meditate a few minutes each day, can be a preemptive way to relax during the evening when it's time for bed.
It Helps You Disconnect From Stimulation
In today's ever-connected, tech-savvy world, most of us are bombarded with stimulation and technology almost every moment of our waking hours. Particularly in busy, urban areas, where lights, traffic, sounds, and interactions are almost non-stop. In fact, research has found that people living in urban areas are 21 percent more likely to have anxiety disorders and 39 percent more likely to experience mood disorders.
Living in an urban area causes our brains to be overworked and increases our stress responses which can be difficult to tone down when we come home.
However, when you allow yourself some time to decompress after your day, taking a few moments to breathe and meditation, focus only on the moment, allows you to be present and let go of the over stimulation that comes with working (or playing) hard.
It Provides An Alternative To Technology
Often, people will carry their smartphones or tablets with them to bed or watch their favorite shows on television until they pass out. While watching TV before bed may help some people, it's not for everyone.
If you are among the 90 percent of Americans who claim to use technology before bed, you could be disrupting your sleep cycle by over stimulating your brain.
Incorporating a pre-bedtime meditation, followed by a calming cup of tea or other quiet time, has been proven to calm the mind and reduce stress among those studied, including individuals suffering with insomnia or other sleep difficulties.
When practicing mindfulness meditation, it becomes difficult to focus on the notifications on your phone or what you might be missing on TV.
Mindfulness meditation has been around for centuries for good reason: It is a powerful tool used to calm the mind and body, reduce stress, alleviate pain, and help us stay calm and centered.
The great thing about it, is you don't have to be an expert. Starting slow with simple breathing exercises will help you start getting comfortable with turning into yourself, and tuning out mental noise that can keep you up at night.
If you frequently crawl into bed, overwhelmed with worries, fears, concerns, or thoughts, meditation could potentially transform the way you not only fall and stay asleep, but the way you function each day in your life.