Can Meditation Replace Sleep?

Several yogis and meditators have reported sleeping just one hour per night as a result of their deep meditation practice. But whether meditation can actually replace sleep is a question that requires some scientific investigation.
While there are many anecdotes of people needing less sleep when they start meditating, science helps us understand whether meditation is a good substitute for sleep.

In this article, we’ll first cover how meditation can improve sleep quality and the extent to which it can replace sleep. Next, we’ll talk about how to meditate correctly to achieve optimal shut-eye, as well as discussing the best meditation app for sleep.

Meditation and Sleep

Mind and its usages.
The modern world can make it very difficult for the mind to rest. Whether or not meditation can replace sleep, it can certainly help you get more and better quality slumber

“In this fast-paced, information-overloaded modern world, one of the few times that we stop our persistent informational consumption and inwardly reflect is when our heads hit the pillow.” – Matthew Walker, Ph.D.

There are three main keys to restful sleep, and meditation can help with all of them.

Having a calm nervous system

Stress is one of the biggest enemies of sleep because it puts your body into a fight-or-flight state, activating your sympathetic nervous system. Most of us spend our days “revved up” because we get inundated with notifications, worries, plans, tight schedules, and many other factors.

The stress response is the same for worry as for physical events. This can make it very difficult to fall asleep when you want to because your brain thinks that a lion may be attacking while you’re lying in bed!

But meditation is a solution to this problem. It calms the body, putting you in a rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) state. As a result, you can feel tired when it’s time for bed and fall asleep quicker.

So while one person might be in bed by 8pm and not fall asleep until 10pm if they are in a fight-or-flight state, a meditator could go to bed at 10pm and fall asleep immediately. Since many people count their amount of sleep by what time they go to bed, in this case the meditator has “replaced” two hours of sleep with some meditation.

2. Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle

Melatonin is a key hormone that you produce naturally when it’s time to fall asleep.

But unfortunately, the modern world is throwing off production of this natural hormone with blue light (from screens), caffeine, and stress. This can completely throw off your sleep rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep when you want to.

Furthermore, since melatonin helps you remain in a deep state of quality sleep throughout the night, people who produce less melatonin can wake up feeling like they didn’t get enough sleep.

Once again, meditation can help with this. One study found that meditation nearly doubles melatonin levels on average! So when it comes to establishing a regular sleep schedule and feeling ready for sleep when you lay down, meditation is a great way to activate your natural sleep rhythm and get a quality night’s sleep.

Quieting your “monkey mind”

Some scientists like Dr. Deepak Chopra posit that we have about 70,000 thoughts per day. It’s an unverifiable claim, but the point still stands: our minds love to think.

Thinking is fine, but it can pose a real problem when you’re trying to fall asleep. You know that feeling when the mind continues to chew on events from the previous day or anticipate the next day’s events? And even when you manage to fall asleep, the mind can still remain overactive leading to low-quality sleep.

When you meditate, the mind can relax into a restorative state even though you’re still awake. The brain goes from producing higher-frequency beta brain waves (how fast the neurons in your brain are firing) seen in awake, normal consciousness, to slower alpha and theta waves that allow the mind to relax (see below). Advanced meditators even show enhanced gamma waves, but that’s a topic for another article.

Meditation can induce more relaxing alpha and theta brain waves, putting the mind into a restorative state

Since meditation may improve your quality as well as your quantity of sleep, in this sense it can also replace wasted time spent in a state of low-quality slumber. It’s important to note, however, that your brain also requires delta waves found in deep sleep and in Yoga Nidra, a particular type of meditation that we’ll talk about next.

Now that we’ve covered the science of sleep as it relates to meditation, I’ll briefly describe how you can use meditation to improve your sleep quality.

How to Sleep Less with Meditation

In the book The Relaxation Response, Harvard researcher Dr. Herbert Benson claim that an hour of meditation is equivalent to sleeping 3-4 hours. But Dr. Benson later admits: “Meditation is therefore not a form of sleep; nor can it be used as a substitute for sleep. Meditation evokes some of the physiologic changes that are found in sleep…”

While science is still studying the extent to which meditation can replace sleep, it certainly seems to be true that meditation can in some ways reduce the amount of sleep we need, or at least our feelings of tiredness.

What is the best type of meditation for sleep?

Here are the top techniques for getting to sleep quickly and achieving deeper states of mental restoration:

Yoga Nidra Meditation

At least 3,000 years old and originating in India, Yoga Nidra lies at the intersection of meditation and sleep.

The objective of Yoga Nidra is twofold: on one level, it can lead us into restorative states of sleep, and on a deeper level we can use it to explore and reprogram the subconscious mind.

Yoga Nidra can produce deep delta waves, the same as deep sleep, even while you remain consciously aware. Importantly, no other meditation technique will have these effects, and so Yoga Nidra is the best tool for replacing sleep if you are going to go that route.

2. Tranquil Breathing Meditation

This technique uses a deceptively straightforward concept, the breath, to calm your nervous system and bring your brain into a state of coherence.

The first aspect of Tranquil Breathing involves using your full diaphragm by breathing into your belly. This will activate your rest-and-digest system, removing stale air in the lower lungs and giving you maximum energy from the breath.

Next, you establish a regular rhythm and smoothen the breath until you feel your mind begin to relax. To learn more about this technique, here’s an article explaining the science and method of meditation for breathing.

3. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation has been shown by research to improve sleep quality.

While you may spend most of our day identified with thoughts, this causes a lot of trouble when you’re trying to fall asleep. Mindfulness Meditation involves noticing thoughts, feelings, and sensations without getting wrapped up in the content. You simply notice whatever appears in your mind in each moment, and then let it go like a cloud drifting harmlessly through the open sky.

If you want to learn and practice all three of these techniques, there’s a meditation app called FitMind developed with the help of monks and neuroscientists that teaches them step-by-step with expert instruction.

The Best Meditation App for Sleep

When it comes to using guided meditation for getting a great night’s sleep, some apps are better than others.

While certain apps may claim to lull you off with “sleep stories” or calming music, there are more effective, science-based techniques for falling into a deep sleep very quickly. Yoga Nidra, Tranquil Breathing, and Mindfulness Meditation have been practiced for thousands of years in the Far East, but so far only the latter method is taught on most apps.

FitMind teaches all three of these techniques so that you can use them for the rest of your life whenever you have trouble sleeping. FitMind was created with input from monks and neuroscientists and was ranked #1 best meditation app for better sleep by CNET.

FitMind is recommended as the best meditation app for sleep because it teaches advanced techniques that help your brain begin to produce deep delta brain waves.

There’s solid scientific evidence to suggest that meditation can significantly improve sleep quality. And if you’re serious about finding out whether meditation can replace sleep or are looking to master highly effective bedtime meditations, we recommend checking out FitMind, which is the best meditation app for sleep currently available.

About the Author: Liam McClintock is an RYS Certified Meditation Teacher with a B.A. from Yale University. He is currently completing a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Applied Neuroscience at King’s College London.

Tim Ferriss’ view on Meditation: If done daily, it can have the greatest impact on your lives

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ecently, Tim Ferriss the author, blogger and motivational speaker known for his books [easyazon_link identifier=”0307465357″ locale=”US” tag=”meditationise-20″]The 4-Hour Workweek[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”030746363X” locale=”US” tag=”meditationise-20″]The 4-Hour Body[/easyazon_link] did a live Q&A session on Quora. One of the questions that was asked from Tim was this:-

What program, habit or change do you think most people don’t do, (but can) that would have the greatest impact on their lives?

I was pleasantly surprised by reading the answer given by him. Tim, the blue eyed boy of today’s aspiring startups entrepreneurs, told the audience that a regular practice of Short but regular Morning Meditation is the habit that can have the greatest impact on lives of people. The reinforcement of doing meditation on daily basis from Tim Ferriss- who is known for recommending path breaking techniques of improving productivity and living a life away from the rat race – will go a long way in awakening interest in meditation in many target groups which are yet to be reached.

Tim Ferriss Photo
Tim Ferriss

Here is the answer given by Tim Ferriss when asked about a program, habit or change that most people don’t do (but can) and which would have the greatest impact on their lives

What program, habit or change do you think most people don’t do, (but can) that would have the greatest impact on their lives?

Short but regular morning meditation. I found that more than 80% of the world-class performers I interviewed for [easyazon_link identifier=”1328683788″ locale=”US” tag=”meditationise-20″]Tools of Titans[/easyazon_link] have some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice. Both can be thought of as “cultivating a present-state awareness that helps you to be nonreactive.”

This applies to everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob, and from elite athletes like Amelia Boone to writers like Maria Popova. It’s the most consistent pattern of them all.

It is a “meta-skill” that improves everything else. You’re starting your day by practicing focus when it doesn’t matter (sitting on a couch for 10 minutes) so that you can focus better later when it does matter (negotiation, conversation with a loved one, max deadlift, mind-melding with a Vulcan, etc.).

If you want better results with less stress, fewer “I should have said X” mental loops, etc., meditation acts as a warm bath for the mind. Perhaps you’re a world-conquering machine with elite focus, but you might need to CTFO (chill the fuck out) a few minutes a day before you BTFO (burn the fuck out).

Meditation allows me to step back and gain a “witness perspective” (as with psychedelics), so that I’m observing my thoughts instead of being tumbled by them. I can step out of the washing machine and calmly look inside it.

Most of our waking hours, we feel as though we’re in a trench on the front lines with bullets whizzing past our heads. Through 20 minutes of consistent meditation, I can become the commander, looking out at the battlefield from a hilltop. I’m able to look at a map of the territory and make high-level decisions. “These guys shouldn’t even be fighting over here. What the hell is Regiment B doing over there? Call them out. We need more troops around the ridge. For objectives, we should be going after A, B, and C in that order. Ignore all the other so-called emergencies until those are handled. Great. Now, deep breath, and . . . execute.”

Make Meditation a daily habit
Make Meditation a daily habit

A few options to get you started:

1. Use an app like Headspace or Calm. Headspace’s free “Take10” will guide you for 10 minutes a day for 10 days. A number of my guests also use Headspace to help them get to sleep.

2.Listen to a guided meditation from Sam Harris or Tara Brach. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings listens to the same recording every morning — Tara Brach’s Smile Guided Meditation recording from the summer of 2010.

3. Take a TM course (Learn about the Transcendental Meditation technique.). It will probably cost $1,000 or more, but this option offers a coach and accountability. For me, this is what kicked off more than 2 years of consistent meditation.

4. If you want to try mantra-based meditation without a course, you can sit and silently repeat one two-syllable word (I’ve used “na-ture” before) for 10 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning. TM purists would call this heresy, but you can still see results. Aim for physical comfort. No crossed legs or yoga-like contortion required. The default is sitting reasonably straight on a chair with your feet on the floor, hands on your thighs or in your lap, and back supported.

Can Meditation Helps In Controlling Substance Abuse ?

The use of meditation for addiction recovery has been on increase. A number of scientific researches on the effect of meditation on drug addiction have establioshed this fact that Meditation is one of the most effective tool for overcoming addiction.

The famous Alcoholics Anonymous foundation has been working on this subject since long and they have relesaed a number of guided meditation for alcoholics. In this article, I will be sharing some of the most effective online meditations that have been developed to help alleviate the problem of drug addiction.

But first of all, let us have a look at a woderful inforgraphic on this subject created by  Peaksymmetry. In this inforgraphic, it has been shown in an excellent way as to how the practice of mindfulness meditation helps in reducing the probelm of susbstance/alchol abuse. It also shows how the critical pathways of brain are rewired to allow more control to the addict in deciding various day to day behaviours.

Have a look :

meditation_overcome_addiction_Image
How Meditation Helps Overcome Addiction?

Here are the three videos of guided meditation for addiction which will help anybody who want to help himself or his near and dears in overcoming the challenges of substance abuse.

(1) Alcoholics Anonymous 11th Step Meditation

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The creator of this video has also provided this Dropbox download link  for anyone who would like the 11th Step Meditation CD, Format to start a meeting, and a tabel if one like to duplicate and give out CDs. The only stipulation is that one don’t charge for the CD. Perhaps a very generous offering in true human spirit.

(2) Real Meditation for Real Alcoholics The Full Exercise

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“Real Meditation for Real Alcoholics” – This is the full 30 minute, Non-Contemplative Meditation™ exercise that will allow you to get free from anger, separate you from your thoughts so that you can get connected to God immediately. This is the non-religious, non-commercial, pure exercise that will open your mind, heart and eyes and break you free from the bondage of self.

The Book, “Real Meditation for Real Alcoholics”  is the accompaniment to these audio presentations and introduces a special, meditation technique not affiliated with any religion or pseudo-spiritual movements.

While creating this version, the creator specifically had alcoholics and “those who love them,” in mind. But of course, anyone can use this.

(3) How do I Overcome Addictions and Compulsive Disorder?

This is short but highly informative talks by Hon’ble Sadhguru who in his mesmerizing voice stressed upon the use of meditation to have better control over our impulses and overcoming Addictions.

[cleveryoutube video=”IjU9FslSB_Q” style=”25″]
I would like to know your views on the use of meditation for overcoming addictions. Feel free to express your opinions in the comment box below.

It’s never too late to learn anything : including Meditation

If you have any reservation about learning any new thing in your life (including meditation), you need to read this infographic.

Here is an interesting infographic from MindValleyAcademy.com that gives an interesting account of those who made it big after reaching 40.  Just read it

 

You are never too late for anything

Speaking specifically about meditation, it is the real art of learning about the real you- the identity behind the person you watch everyday in your mirror. There is never a best time to learning meditation than NOW.

Take inspiration from these people and make meditation a part of your life. You are never too old for it.

Using Meditation to Heal from Trauma

Meditation is a powerful tool for reducing stress and healing from physical and emotional trauma.

Meditation and PTSD

After suffering a traumatic event, normal functioning is often disrupted. Symptoms like those categorized by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) arise, including lowered resilience to stress, abrupt shifts in mood states, feeling unsafe and heightened to one’s surroundings and having vivid intrusive memories or  “flashbacks” of the traumatic event.  Take a closer look at PTSD at the NIMH page.

By practicing meditation, the mind deals with the emotional complexities of trauma while the body learns to relax to a state of rest. With continued meditation practice, the symptoms of PTSD are often reduced. Continue reading “Using Meditation to Heal from Trauma”