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Meditation for Insomnia
by BetterSleep
Oct 29 2022 • 15 min read
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Are you tired of tossing and turning at night, constantly checking the clock as the hours slowly pass with no sign of sleep? Have you tried all the tips and tricks for a better night’s rest, but nothing seems to work? It may be time to try meditation for insomnia.

Research has shown that regular mindfulness meditation improves sleep quality and decreases insomnia symptoms. One study found that those who underwent an eight-week mindfulness meditation program had significantly improved sleep efficiency and reduced insomnia severity compared to those in a control group.

By incorporating meditation into your bedtime routine, you may finally be able to get the peaceful slumber you’ve been longing for. In this post, we’ll explore how meditation can be used to treat insomnia and offer some tips for getting started. So if you’re struggling to get your zzz’s, read on!

What is Insomnia?

Before discussing different meditation techniques for insomnia, let’s first take a quick look at its causes and symptoms. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling and staying asleep. It can also include struggling to achieve a night of restful, rejuvenating sleep. Insomnia can be short-term, lasting for just a few nights or weeks, or chronic, lasting for a month or longer.

Causes of Insomnia


One of the most common causes of insomnia is stress. When stressed, our bodies go into fight or flight mode and release the hormone cortisol. This can interfere with our natural sleep-wake cycle, causing us to have trouble falling and staying asleep. Additionally, stress can cause racing thoughts and anxiety, making it difficult to relax enough to fall asleep. In severe cases, stress can lead to chronic primary insomnia.

There are various ways to combat stress-related insomnia, such as practicing relaxation techniques before bed, exercising and maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in some mindfulness training, seeking counseling or therapy for underlying issues, and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine in the evening. It is important to address stress as a potential cause of insomnia to improve sleep quality and health.


One cause of insomnia is the use of medication. Certain prescription drugs, such as antidepressants and blood pressure medications, can interfere with sleep patterns and lead to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Even over-the-counter medications, such as cold and allergy medicine, can have side effects that cause sleep problems.

In addition, some people may develop a dependence on sleep medicine, leading to insomnia when they try to stop taking the medication. Talking to a doctor about any potential side effects or dependency risks when starting a new medication is important.

Making lifestyle changes, such as following a regular sleep schedule and limiting screen time before bed, can also help improve insomnia caused by medication.

Substances Such as Caffeine or Alcohol

Substances such as caffeine and alcohol can greatly impact our ability to fall and stay asleep. While caffeine is a stimulant that can increase alertness and prevent sleep, alcohol initially acts as a sedative, causing drowsiness. However, as the body metabolizes the alcohol, it can interrupt sleep and lead to frequent awakenings throughout the night.

Additionally, caffeine and alcohol can lead to sleep deprivation, cause disturbances in normal sleep cycles and decrease the time spent in deep, restorative stages of sleep. Chronic use of these substances can also lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms, further impacting sleep.

It is important to limit or avoid the consumption of caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime to promote healthy sleep patterns and avoid insomnia.

Physical Illnesses and Pain

Physical illnesses and chronic pain can lead to insomnia because they cause discomfort and disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. For example, conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia can cause constant pain, making it difficult to fall or stay asleep.

Other physical illnesses, such as respiratory problems or gastrointestinal issues, can cause discomfort and interrupt sleep. In addition, medications used to treat these illnesses may also have sleep-disrupting side effects.

Those with physical illnesses and chronic pain need to discuss their sleep struggles with a healthcare provider and explore potential treatment options, such as therapy, medication, or alternative practices like yoga or meditation for sleep.

Psychiatric Disorders

One common psychiatric disorder that can lead to insomnia is depression. People with depression often have trouble falling or staying asleep and may also experience early morning waking. Anxiety disorders can also contribute to insomnia, as individuals may experience racing thoughts and excessive worry that make it difficult to fall asleep or cause frequent awakenings at night.

Other mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, may also lead to sleep disturbances. It is important for individuals experiencing insomnia to seek treatment for any underlying psychiatric disorders and address sleep hygiene and other behavioral factors contributing to their sleeplessness.

Disruptive Environments or Schedules

One potential cause of insomnia is a disruptive environment or schedule. This can include excessive noise, light, or temperature in the bedroom and irregular sleep-wake schedules such as shift work or jet lag. These disruptions can make it difficult for the brain and body to relax and fall asleep.

Additionally, constantly changing sleep schedules can confuse the body’s circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall and stay asleep consistently. Creating a calm and consistent sleep environment and schedule can help alleviate insomnia caused by disruptive factors.

What are the Symptoms of Insomnia

Difficulty Falling Asleep

One symptom of insomnia is difficulty falling asleep. This can manifest as taking a long time to fall asleep, waking up multiple times throughout the night, and having trouble returning to sleep.

Difficulty falling asleep can lead to frustration, stress, and decreased productivity during the day due to lack of sleep. In severe cases, it may even cause extreme exhaustion and impair daily functioning.

Feeling Tired Throughout the Day

This tiredness, also known as excessive daytime sleepiness, can significantly impact daily activities and overall quality of life. It can lead to decreased productivity at work or school, difficulty concentrating, and increased risk for accidents or injuries.

In severe cases, excessive daytime sleepiness can even interfere with basic self-care tasks such as eating and grooming. The inability to concentrate can also negatively impact relationships and social interactions.

Irritability and Mood Swings

Irritability and mood swings are common symptoms of insomnia. When people are not getting enough sleep, they may become easily frustrated or irritated at small things. They may also experience sudden shifts in their mood, becoming suddenly angry or depressed.

These symptoms can negatively impact personal relationships and work performance. It is important for those experiencing these symptoms to seek treatment for their insomnia to improve their overall emotional well-being.

Trouble Remembering Things

This can manifest as difficulty concentrating or a decreased ability to recall information. In severe cases, memory loss may occur. This impairment in cognitive function can negatively impact one’s work and relationships.

Additionally, research has shown a link between chronic insomnia and an increased risk of developing dementia.

Benefits of Meditation for Insomnia

Sleep meditations are an effective treatment for insomnia. Studies have found that regular meditation can improve overall sleep quality and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep.

One reason is that meditation can help reduce racing thoughts and anxiety, contributing to sleeplessness. Meditation helps train the mind to focus on the present moment and let go of worrisome thoughts, allowing for a calm and relaxed state before bedtime. It also helps regulate the body’s stress response system and decreases activity in the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with fear and anxiety.

Physiologically, meditation has been shown to decrease activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight response, and increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and reduces psychological stress.

In addition, meditation can increase levels of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles. This can lead to improved sleep patterns and an increased duration of restful sleep.

Regular meditation practice can also help address underlying issues that may be causing insomnia, such as chronic stress or depression. By reducing stress and improving mood, meditation can help create a more conducive environment for restful sleep.

Overall, incorporating meditation into your routine can lead to significant improvements in your sleep health and overall well-being.

Types of Meditation That Can Be Helpful for Insomnia

There are various types of meditation that can be helpful for insomnia, such as:

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and accepting thoughts or feelings that arise without judgment. This type of meditation can be helpful for insomnia because it encourages a non-judgmental attitude towards racing thoughts or anxious feelings that may be keeping someone awake at night.

Mindfulness practice also helps to train the mind to let go of worries and concerns, allowing for a more restful sleep. Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly may also lead to a general decrease in stress and anxiety levels, contributing to better sleep overall.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a meditation where the practitioner imagines a peaceful, calming scene or setting in their mind. This can be done with the help of a guide leading the visualization or on one’s own. This type of meditation can be helpful for insomnia because it encourages the release of endorphins, which promote feelings of relaxation and improved sleep.

Research has shown that guided imagery can positively impact insomnia as it helps quiet racing thoughts and calm the nervous system, leading to better sleep. It can also be useful in addressing any underlying stress or anxiety contributing to sleeplessness.

To practice guided imagery for insomnia, find a comfortable sitting or lying position, close your eyes, and focus on deep breathing. Then, imagine a peaceful scene such as walking through a beautiful meadow, lying on a beach, or sitting by a calm lake. Notice all of the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations in this setting. You can also incorporate positive affirmations or mantras into your visualization to alleviate stress and promote relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a meditation in which the individual systematically tenses and relaxes each muscle group in the body, starting with the feet and working up to the head. This is quite similar to the body scan meditation.

This technique can be helpful for insomnia because it helps to release physical tension and promote overall relaxation, improving sleep quality. Additionally, regularly practicing this technique can train the body and mind to automatically relax upon lying in bed, making it easier to fall asleep.

To practice this meditation, find a comfortable position lying down or sitting upright. Starting with the feet, tense the muscles for 10 before consciously relaxing them for another count of 10. Move up through each muscle group, repeating this process until all body areas have been addressed.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra, also known as “yogic sleep,” is a form of sleep meditation that involves the body being completely relaxed while the mind remains conscious. During this practice, guided imagery and body scans are often used to release physical and mental tension.

Research has shown that regularly practicing Yoga Nidra can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms. One study found that participants who practiced Yoga Nidra for six weeks experienced significant decreases in insomnia severity, daytime dysfunction, and depression symptoms.

In addition to improving sleep, Yoga Nidra can also reduce stress and anxiety, common insomnia triggers. By using breathwork and mindfulness techniques during the practice, individuals can learn to quiet their busy minds and let go of racing thoughts that may keep them up at night.

Overall, incorporating Yoga Nidra into a bedtime routine can be a helpful tool for those struggling with insomnia.

How to Meditate for Insomnia

Identify the Type of Insomnia You’re Experiencing

Before beginning a meditation practice for insomnia, it is important to identify the type of insomnia you are experiencing. There are three main types of insomnia: transient (short-term), acute (occasional but recurring), and chronic (long-term).

Transient insomnia is often caused by temporary stress or changes in the environment and typically only lasts a few nights to a couple of weeks. Acute insomnia can be caused by ongoing stress or life events and may occur several times throughout the year. Chronic insomnia is ongoing, typically lasting for months or even years, and often requires medical intervention.

Once you have determined your type of insomnia, it can guide the type of meditation practice that may be most helpful for you. For example, if you are experiencing transient or acute insomnia, mindfulness meditation or guided imagery may help manage stress and aid sleep.

If chronic insomnia is an issue, it may be necessary to consult a healthcare professional and incorporate other techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and meditation.

Keeping track of any patterns or triggers related to your insomnia is also important. This can inform your meditation practice and overall approach to managing sleep difficulties.

Keeping a sleep diary can also help identify potential causes or contributing factors to your sleeplessness. With this information, you can tailor your meditations to address these specific issues and promote better sleep habits.

Understand the Basics of Meditation

To begin, it is important to understand the basics of meditation. First, find a comfortable and quiet place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice the sensations of inhaling and exhaling without trying to control or change your breathing. When thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them and let them go without judgment. Continue this practice for 10-20 minutes.

It may be helpful to use a guided meditation or listen to calming music during your practice. It is also important to make time for regular meditation, as it can take consistent practice to see its benefits for insomnia. Additionally, incorporate other healthy habits such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding screens before bedtime to improve sleep quality.

Experiment With Different Techniques and Find What Works Best for You

First, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all meditation technique. Therefore, it is essential to experiment with different techniques and listen to your own body and mind to find the best technique.

One way to experiment with different techniques is to try guided meditations, which can be found through apps, YouTube videos, or audio recordings. These can help provide structure and a focus for your meditation practice. It can also be helpful to attend a meditation class or workshop, where an experienced teacher can guide you through different techniques and offer personalized guidance.

In addition to trying out different techniques, it is important to create a regular meditation practice. This can include setting aside time each day for meditation, creating a comfortable and quiet space for practice, and committing to a consistent routine.

When practicing meditation for insomnia, it can be helpful to focus on relaxing the body and clearing the mind of racing thoughts. Techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or focusing on the breath can be particularly useful in inducing feelings of calmness and restfulness. Incorporating visualization or affirmations related to restful sleep into your practice may also be helpful.

Ultimately, the key is to find a technique or combination of techniques that work for you and make them a regular part of your routine. With consistency and patience, mindfulness meditation can positively improve sleep quality and combat insomnia.

Follow a Guided Meditation or Practice on Your Own

There are various options for practicing meditation to help with insomnia. One option is to follow a guided meditation in person with a teacher or through an audio recording. This can be helpful for those new to meditation, as the guide will lead you through the process and offer cues and suggestions.

Alternatively, you can also practice meditation on your own. Before beginning, it’s important to find a comfortable position (such as sitting or lying down) and set aside some quiet, distraction-free time. Focus on your breath and let go of any racing thoughts or worries. You can also try repeating a mantra or focusing on a specific object or image.

Stick With It and Be Patient

Persistence and patience are two of the most crucial things to remember when starting a meditation routine for insomnia. It may take some time for the technique to start showing results, and it’s important not to give up too quickly. Additionally, consistency is key – try to meditate at the same time each day and make it a regular part of your routine.

It can also be helpful to have some accountability – whether joining a meditation class or finding a friend or loved one to meditate with. This can provide motivation and support during the initial adjustment period.

In addition, it’s essential to approach meditation with an open mind and let go of any expectations or attachments to outcomes. The purpose of meditation is simply to focus on the present moment and let go of any racing thoughts or stress that may be keeping you awake at night. Trust in the process and allow yourself the time and space to reap its benefits.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Meditation Practice

Find a Comfortable Place to Sit or Recline

Finding a comfortable place to sit or recline is important for getting the most out of your meditation practice. It can be indoors or outdoors, as long as it feels calming to you. Consider using a cushion or blanket to support your back and hips, keeping the spine straight but relaxed. If sitting on the floor is not comfortable for you, try sitting in a chair with both feet flat on the ground.

Experiment with positions like half- or full-lotus, cross-legged, kneeling or lying down until you find one that allows you to feel relaxed yet alert. Remember to keep the body still and steady during meditation to avoid any unnecessary physical discomfort.

Make Sure the Environment is Quiet and Free from Distractions

Another crucial tip for getting the most out of your meditation practice is to make sure the environment is quiet and free from distractions. This means finding a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed by noises or disruptions, such as turning off your phone and closing the door to prevent interruptions.

It also means reducing other potential distractions, like clutter or uncomfortable temperatures. By creating a peaceful and comfortable environment, you can focus more fully on your meditation practice and reap its benefits.

Concentrate on Your Breath and Count Each Inhale and Exhale

Focusing on your breath helps to bring your attention to the present moment and prevent thoughts from wandering. It also allows you to notice any tension or discomfort in your body, which can then be released with each exhale.

Start by taking a deep breath through your nose and counting “one,” then slowly release it through your mouth and count “two.” Continue this pattern, steadily increasing the count until you reach ten. Then start over at one again. If your mind starts to wander, simply acknowledge the thought and gently guide your focus back to your breath and counting.

With consistent practice, you will likely become more present and able to quiet the mind during meditation.

Don’t Be Discouraged If You Can’t Meditate for Very Long at First

One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that you have to be able to sit for hours at a time for it to be effective. This simply isn’t true! Starting with shorter periods of meditation and gradually increasing the time can be more beneficial in the long run.

So don’t get discouraged if you can’t sit for very long at first – start with just 5-10 minutes per day and gradually work your way up. It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard, as this can hinder progress.

Remember, even just a few minutes of mindfulness can significantly reduce stress and improve overall well-being. So start small and let your meditation practice naturally unfold and deepen over time.

Use Meditation as an Opportunity to Reflect on Your Day and Focus on Positive Thoughts

One tip for getting the most out of your meditation practice is to use it as an opportunity to reflect on your day and focus on positive thoughts. During your meditation, take some time to think about any events or interactions during the day. Reflect on how you reacted or responded in those situations and whether you could have handled them differently.

Use this reflection as a chance to let go of any negative emotions or thoughts associated with those events and focus on positive ones instead. This can help clear your mind and bring peace and clarity to your meditation practice. Additionally, consciously directing your thoughts towards positive thoughts and feelings during meditation can help train the mind to focus on the good in every situation and cultivate an overall more positive mindset.

Overcoming Obstacles and Sticking With a Regular Meditation Practice in Improving Sleep Issues

To overcome obstacles in sticking with a regular meditation practice, it is important first to identify what those obstacles may be. It could be a lack of time, difficulty sitting still, or feeling like meditation is not working. It is important to address these obstacles head-on and find ways to work around them.

For example, if lack of time is an issue, try meditating for shorter periods or finding moments throughout the day to practice mindfulness. If sitting still is difficult, try a walking meditation or using guided meditations with gentle movements. And if you feel like meditation isn’t working, remember that it can take time and consistency to see results. It may also be helpful to try different types of meditation and find what works best for you.

Once potential obstacles are addressed, committing to maintaining a regular meditation practice is important. Set aside dedicated time each day for your practice and treat it as a non-negotiable appointment with yourself. Consistency is key for seeing long-term results in improving sleep issues and overall mental and physical wellness.

The Best Time of Day to Meditate for Insomnia

There is no definitive answer to this question, as it ultimately depends on the individual’s own schedule and preferences. However, many people find that practicing meditation in the evening before bed can help promote relaxation and improve sleep.

This allows for any lingering stress or anxious thoughts from the day to be released before attempting to rest. It is important to note that consistency is key with a meditation practice, so finding a time that works best for the individual and can be consistently maintained is essential.


While medication can be an effective way to address insomnia, it’s important to remember that many sleep medications have potential side effects. But with a natural approach like meditation, insomnia may be better managed and treated.

Though it may take some practice, meditation can be a powerful tool for addressing insomnia. There are many different types of meditation that can be helpful, so experiment until you find one or more techniques that work well for you. The BetterSleep app provides helpful tips and tricks for those looking to start meditating to improve their sleep quality.

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