Is it okay to Meditate Before Sleep? Do it the Right Way

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Meditation is a practice that enables you to get in touch with your true thoughts and emotions. Over the last decade, meditation has become wildly popular with the western world because of its physical and mental health benefits such as improved focus and concentration, reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, and improvements in sleep disorders, and much more.

Meditation can be practiced any time of the day. Even before sleeping. Yes, it’s okay to do meditation before sleeping. In fact, regularly practicing meditation before sleeping can be a lot helpful in sleep-related disorders like insomnia. But there are some important things related to it that should be taken care of.

We’ll get into the details, but first, let’s understand a few basic fundamentals that will help us to better grasp the answer.

Let me tell you about a small incident. Sometime back I conducted an evening meditation class wherein I invited a group of people for practicing mindfulness and relaxation. There was this gentleman who was extremely excited about the class and kept calling me time and again and started bombarding me with questions like “What will I learn”, “Will I get rid of anxiety in one session”, and many more. So I asked him to attend the session and see for himself.

When the time came I explained everything about mindfulness and how to meditate. The time for actually sitting in meditation came up and everybody was sitting on the chairs with their eyes closed, including that guy.

And boy he was so excited about this whole thing. He could hardly get a hold of himself. He actually asked for a Zafu (a comfortable meditation cushion specially designed for meditation) instead of a chair. He said that he would like to do it in the traditional way in order to get the best possible experience. So I gave him a Zafu.

This was a guided meditation session that went on for about 20 minutes. I was speaking very softly using a microphone. Everybody was immersed in the experience and it was wonderful to see so many people feeling relaxed. Some of them even showed a little smile on their face.

All of a sudden I hear the snoring sound. When I looked around it was the same guy snoring loudly in sleep. He had fallen asleep on his Zafu with his back supported against the wall. I had to literally shake him to wake him up.

When the session ended he felt disappointed and a little embarrassed. His enthusiasm was all gone and he said that maybe meditation was not his thing.

This is something very common with beginners. Even people who have been meditating for a long time (including me) sometimes have to struggle to keep themselves awake while meditating.

Understanding the difference between sleep and meditation

The only difference between meditation and sleep is that in deep sleep (when you are not dreaming) you lose your sense of identity i.e. the ‘I’ along with the awareness, whereas, in mediation, you also lose the ‘I’, but the awareness is there.

In deep meditation, the awareness is greatly heightened and you feel yourself to be a part of (or one with) the whole existence, and the sense of ‘I’ is lost. The extreme joy you feel while meditating is because of the loss of this ‘I’.

For most people, it takes a long time to experience deep meditation. Beginners in general have to practice a lot before they are able to achieve that state. Most of them tend to fall asleep during meditation.

Our mind works in such a way that it does not like to be controlled and it will do anything in its power to distract you from meditating. And drifting you towards sleep is one of the ways it does that.

So what to do if you feel sleepy during meditation. One of the ways is to start your meditation with slow and deep breathing. Gently fill up your diaphragm with air as you inhale and slowly breath out as you exhale.

After a couple of minutes (10 minutes or so), you can resume your normal breathing. If you feel lightheaded while deep breathing just reduces your intensity of breathing a bit. Don’t exert too much force while breathing.

Another way is to chant a Mantra. For example, Umm.. is a popular mantra, but it’s completely your choice. You can repeat any Mantra you like in your mind or speak slowly, as you feel comfortable.

So which type of meditation is better if you doing it before sleeping?

Although you can practice any type of meditation you prefer before going to bed, this is very personal and is different for different people.

For example, if you are a beginner and want to meditate in the evening, breath aware meditation (which involves watching the breath) might not be a very good option. The chances of you as a beginner falling asleep.

In such cases, one can practice easier options like body scan meditation (where you shed awareness on the body parts holding tension and stress), walking meditation, simple mantra meditation, or a short guided meditation.

It’s completely your choice. There is no one-fits-all technique. For guided meditations, you can take the help of mobile apps. Sometime back I wrote a post on the 10 Best Mobile Apps for Practicing Meditation.

The correct way to do meditation before sleep

To be honest there is no right or wrong way to meditate and it’s subjective. Different people will have different techniques and strategies when it comes to meditation. There are no predefined set of rules as such.

But definitely, there are a few points (common sense) that can help you to make the most out of your evening meditation. Some of them are as follows:

  • Having your dinner early – If you sit for meditation just immediately after a meal, the chances are that you will not be able to sit for long because your body at that time is busy digesting the food you have eaten. I eat my dinner at around 6:00 PM in the evening and then start my meditation around 8:00 PM. So I give a good gap of 2 hours between my meal and meditation.
  • Having the right type of food – If you eat heavy high carb meal, you may experience indigestion issues like bloating and gas. You will not be able to meditate if you are uncomfortable, so make sure that you eat a light dinner like salads and soups for dinner.
  • Don’t sleep immediately after meditation – There should a gap of at least 1 to 2 hours between meditation and sleep. For example, I meditate at about 8:00 PM in the evening and then go to sleep at around 10:30 PM to 11:00 PM. You should at least give a gap of 45 minutes to 1 hour between meditation and going to bed.
  • Don’t meditate for too long in the evening – My morning meditation duration is about 45 minutes to 1 hour (even more sometimes), but in the evening I just meditate for about 15 – 20 minutes max and I find that to be good enough. Sitting in meditation for long hours in the evening can disturb your sleep cycle.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening – I would recommend not to consume caffeine max after 4 PM, if you plan to meditate in the evening. Caffeine has a very different effect from that of meditation. If you are more interested in this subject, I have thoroughly covered it in detail in this post. Also, caffeine has its effect for about 6 to 8 hours (or even more) and that can interrupt sleep.
  • Practice an easy meditation – In the morning time I practice mindfulness meditation (breath aware) but in the evenings I go for simple meditation practices such as walking meditation or mantra meditation.

In walking meditation, we walk at a very slow pace and keep our awareness on the combination of breath and steps we take and don’t make any sharp movements while turning around.

If you need to turn around, do it slowly and mindfully. For beginners, 5 to 10 minutes of walking meditation is more than enough. If you’re a complete beginner, check out The Ultimate Meditation Guide.

What are the benefits of doing meditation in the evenings before sleep?

Most people have trouble while going to sleep. Some of us compulsively have to watch something on our smartphones or television in order to fall asleep. But the problem is that sleep induced after watching television or smartphone screen is not of good quality.

I remember a time when I used to get up in the middle of the night to check the time. Because I desperately wanted the night to end. My overactive restless mind was not allowing me to sleep peacefully.

All of my fears and insecurities were projected in my dreams in the form of nightmares and it was a very harrowing experience.

Some of us actually dread nighttime because our minds keep overworking even at that time, and in such a case, we are incapable of experiencing deep sleep which is required in order to maintain good health.

Meditating before going to bed can help in relaxing the autonomous nervous system and calming the overactive mind. With a calm mind, it is easier to fall asleep and experience REM sleep. Most dreams occur during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and that in turn regulates our mood for the next day.  

By practicing meditation every day, I cured my insomnia over the years. Getting good sleep at night makes us more happy, energetic, and productive during the day and we are able to better focus on our work.

I have also heard many people tell me that meditation helped them to experience lucid dreams. I have personally experienced many lucid dreams. In some of them, I had complete awareness of the fact that I was dreaming and I had the power of steering the dream in any direction I liked.

Lucid dreaming is a topic for another time. Maybe I’ll cover it in detail in another post.

Meditating in the evening might not for everyone

For some groups of people meditating in the evening before sleep may not be a very good idea. Especially if your lifestyle is such that you:

  • Eat late at night and just before going to bed – In this case, sitting for meditation will be tough because you body will be busy digesting the food you have eaten. Ideally, you should be empty stomach for at least 2 hours before you sit for meditation.
  • You eat the wrong food – If you are used to eating slow digesting high carb food for dinner such as pizza, pasta, burgers, alcohol, etc., you will feel lethargic and it will be very difficult for you to keep your focus (or awareness). Also eating foods high in sugar (cakes, pastries, etc.) may interfere with your meditation practice.
  • Your day job is extremely exhausting physically – If you are in professions that are physically very demanding and exhausting like construction, fishermen, farming, mining, working with oil rigs, firefighting, sports, and much more, it is very likely that you will be extremely exhausted by the end of the day. In such cases, it is best to meditate during the morning hours when you are well rested.

Again, don’t take my word as a commandment. If you feel you do it, go for it.

Conclusion

So, is the evening time best for meditation?

No. I still feel that morning time is the best because we are well rested after a good night’s sleep. But I will also say that there is absolutely no harm in meditating in the evening. I personally meditate both times.

When it comes to the physical body we do everything necessary to keep it in shape but many of us don’t bother to do a workout for the mind. A healthy mind builds a strong foundation for a healthy body.

A person no matter how fit he or she looks on the outside can never be healthy without a relaxed mind. Meditation is the workout of the mind and the best part is that it only takes 10 to 15 minutes of your time every day.

As I mentioned above, if approached in the right manner, meditation before bedtime is extremely beneficial. In the end, it boils down to your personal prefernces. If meditation before sleeping helps you to feel better, and sleep better, definitely go for it.

But as I said earlier, there is no hard and fast rule to this and you can practice meditation whenever you want and wherever you want.

If you have any questions regarding meditation, please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you enjoyed reading this article please share it with others.

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