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wellness / sleep
Benefits of Guided Sleep Meditation
by BetterSleep
Aug 19 2022 • 8 min read
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Guided sleep meditations can help anyone who struggles with sleep to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and sleep better. The consequences of insomnia, especially chronic primary insomnia, are serious. It can change your mood, impair your ability to function during the day and increase your risk of having an accident.

Meditation has proven benefits for overall well-being. These benefits, from stress and anxiety relief to lower blood pressure, benefit sleep. With regular meditation practice and a healthy lifestyle, you can improve your overall health and greatly impact your sleep.

About Sleep Problems and Insomnia

Everyone occasionally experiences poor sleep. It’s normal for a bad day or a poorly-timed cup of coffee to sometimes wreck a night of sleep. You should not have to cope with difficulty sleeping night after night. If you do, you could have a sleep disorder.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that interferes with your ability to get adequate, quality sleep. It can take several forms:

  • Being unable to fall asleep at bedtime
  • Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
  • Waking up too early and being unable to fall asleep again

If you have insomnia, you might experience one or more of these, but ultimately you don’t sleep well or for enough hours each night. Your sleep quality suffers.

Acute insomnia is common and occurs over a short period of time, usually a few days to a few weeks. Chronic insomnia is long-lasting and continues for a month or longer.

In addition to the obvious nighttime signs, insomnia also causes daytime fatigue and sleepiness. It makes you feel like you aren’t well rested when you get up in the morning, even if you have been in bed all night. Insomnia can cause mood changes, such as irritability and depression. It makes functioning during the day difficult and interferes with concentration and memory.

Other Sleep Disturbances

Insomnia is a broad category of sleep disorder. Other sleep disorders have more specific causes, mechanisms, and symptoms:

  • Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing while you sleep, resulting in disrupted sleep and snoring. For most people, sleep apnea is obstructive, meaning the tissue in the back of the throat collapses. The brain rarely stops sending the signal to breathe during the night. This is called central sleep apnea.
  • Restless legs syndrome. RLS occurs when you are urged to move your legs, usually while lying in bed or sitting for long periods. It is an uncomfortable sensation that makes it very difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. It most often comes on at night.
  • Narcolepsy. This condition is characterized by extreme sleepiness in the daytime and even falling asleep during the day, often without warning.

There are some other sleep disorders, but they are rare. For some people, difficulty sleeping never gets a precise diagnosis beyond insomnia.

Causes of Insomnia and Sleep Issues

Insomnia can have many potential causes or no identifiable causes. Some are very specific, such as a medication or medical condition. Others are broad and related to lifestyle choices that act as contributing factors rather than single causes. These are some of the most common causes and triggers for poor sleep and insomnia:

  • Stress keeps the body and mind revved up and makes it very difficult to sleep at night.
  • Work and travel schedules can interfere with the ability to sleep. Changing time zones or working second and third shifts impact sleep habits and quality.
  • Poor sleep hygiene is a contributor to many people. This means choosing bad habits that inhibit good sleep, such as eating too late at night, consuming caffeine later in the day, watching screens before bed, or drinking alcohol at night.
  • Specific medications can interfere with sleep, including some antidepressants, asthma medications, and blood pressure drugs.
  • Many medical conditions can cause or worsen insomnia. Some examples are diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, overactive thyroid, and chronic pain.
  • Mental illnesses and mental health symptoms also interfere with sleep. Depression, anxiety disorder, and other conditions impact your ability to sleep well.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

If you don’t see improvement in sleep quality or you develop chronic insomnia, you will experience complications. Most immediately, poor sleep quality makes you moody, tired during the day, unable to focus, and unable to function normally. It can damage your relationships and generally lower your quality of life.

Over the long term, you might develop more serious complications. Chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation increase the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, lowered immunity, and mental illness.

About Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation for sleep is not a new practice. Meditation in any form dates back thousands of years. Only recently have researchers begun to figure out how it works and how meditation can help improve mental health, physical health, and sleep.


Meditation is an ancient practice that aims to increase awareness, focus attention, and change consciousness. It includes many techniques and strategies—both physical and mental—to clear the mind, visualize, and focus.

People have been using some form of meditation for thousands of years. It comes from multiple cultures and is popular in the modern world. Meditation is not a religion, but it is an essential practice in many religions. It comes from ancient philosophies and spiritual practices.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is the state of being aware in the present moment. When you are mindful, you are aware of how you feel, your thoughts, physical sensations, and the environment around you.

Mindfulness meditation places particular focus on this awareness. It combines the practice of meditation with the state of present awareness. It typically involves focusing on your breath, the sensations of your body, sounds, smells, and thoughts as they pass through your mind.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is important for sleep-guided meditations. Mindfulness meditation is proven to reduce ruminating thoughts, anxiety, and stress, which impeded sleep in someone with insomnia.

What Is Guided Sleep Meditation?

Meditation comes in many forms. It can be complete silence. You can walk or do yoga while meditating. You practice mindfulness meditation, use a mantra, visualize colors, focus on balancing your chakras, and more.

A type of meditation that is particularly helpful for novice meditators is guided. The guide acts like a meditation teacher, helping you along the way. Anyone, even those with a lot of experience, can benefit from guided meditation. This simply means listening to someone and following their suggestions as you meditate.

Some people do guided meditations in groups, for instance, at a yoga center. But many people use apps and online meditations. These are useful because you can take them with you and meditate wherever you happen to be. Guided meditation is great for those times when you don’t have any good ideas for meditation, or you have a hard time focusing on it.

Guided sleep meditation is specifically designed for anyone who has trouble sleeping. The guide will use several strategies to help you meditate with the end goal of falling asleep and getting more quality, deep sleep.

Health and Sleep Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is good for physical and mental health in several ways. Many of the already proven health benefits are exactly why guided sleep meditation work so well. Meditation relaxes the mind and body, drains stress, relieves anxiety and depression, and might even improve physical health measures, like blood pressure.

Embrace meditation for all its benefits, but if you struggle with sleep, know that regular practice will help. A randomized controlled clinical trial, or several, backs up most of the benefits. These are some of the many ways meditation helps you sleep and feel better:

Meditation Reduces Psychological Stress

Stress is a major factor in insomnia and poor sleep quality. It’s tough to sleep when your mind is racing, and your body feels tense due to stress. Anything you can do to better cope with and reduce stress will improve sleep.

It makes sense that being still, focusing on the present moment, and relaxing your mind and body would reduce stress, but research proves it. Numerous studies continue to show that regular meditation reduces stress in a diverse population of people when compared to controls and placebos. In doing so, meditation relaxes the autonomic nervous system to prepare the mind and body for sleep.

Meditation Manages Anxiety

Another roadblock to good sleep is stress’s cousin anxiety. The two often go hand-in-hand, creating major barriers to falling asleep at night. Whether you have an anxiety disorder or only normal experience levels of anxiety, it impairs sleep. Anxiety causes thoughts that make it hard to fall asleep, but it also impacts your body, causing physical symptoms that also impact sleep.

A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder found it effective. Studies typically show a greater effect for people with anxiety disorders and high anxiety levels, but anyone with anxiety can benefit.

Meditation Creates Physiological Changes

The benefits of meditation are strongly related to emotional health, but the practice affects your body too. It also impacts hormones and brain chemistry, all in positive ways that boost physical health and make sleep easier.

Meditation increases specific hormones that benefit sleep, including melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is necessary for regulating sleep, and serotonin is a chemical precursor. Meditation also reduces blood pressure and heart rate, relaxing and preparing you for sleep.

Meditation Can Help You Change Habits

Difficulty sleeping often has many causes and contributing factors. These include bad habits like drinking too much before bed, compulsively checking social media when you should be sleeping, and others.

Meditation can be a positive way to change these bad habits and replace them with something more positive. Habits are difficult to break, but one successful strategy is a replacement. For instance, people struggling with addiction often replace alcohol or drugs with healthy habits like running.

You can use the same principle to improve your sleep. Evaluate your bad bedtime habits and begin to replace them with sleep meditations. This will have the dual effect of stopping the bad habits and giving you the many benefits of meditation.

Meditation Reduces the Time it Takes to Fall Asleep

If you have the type of insomnia that makes it more difficult to fall asleep, you know how frustrating it is to lie in bed waiting for it to happen. The time it takes to fall asleep is known as sleep latency, and it is long in many people with insomnia. Randomized controlled trials show that meditation can improve sleep latency and reduce how long it takes to get to sleep at night.

Meditating Increases Sleep Duration

Many of the studies that find improved sleep latency with meditation also show that it can help you stay asleep longer. This relief for people with insomnia causes them to wake often throughout the night.

A controlled and randomized trial involved 140 employees using meditation as a workplace intervention. The participants spent just two weeks doing short, guided meditations. None of them had any formal training in mindfulness or meditation. The researchers asked them to do some combination of these exercises for a total of just ten minutes per day.

Even with such a short intervention, the researchers found promising results. While the primary goal of helping employees detach from work on their off hours had disappointing results, most participants slept longer each night with the meditation practice.

Meditation Improves Sleep Quality

Guided meditation can do more than just help you fall asleep or sleep more hours. It can also improve sleep quality. This is even more important than the duration of sleep or sleep latency. You might be able to fall asleep and stay in bed for eight hours, but if you wake up regularly or toss and turn a lot, you don’t get all the benefits of high-quality sleep.

There is plenty of evidence from research that meditation improves sleep quality, not just time spent sleeping. In a randomized clinical trial of older adults who struggle with sleep, participants either spent six weeks with regular mindfulness meditations or a sleep hygiene education program.

The researchers measured each participant’s Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score. All had low scores before the experiment. After the six-week program, those using meditation scored significantly higher than the control group. The daytime impairment among older adults in the study also dropped with meditation.

Another study, a systematic review, looked at multiple randomized controlled clinical trials to investigate the effect of meditation on sleep quality. The review included over 1,500 participants in related studies. They found good evidence that meditation programs improve sleep quality in most people compared to controls.

Can Insomnia Be Cured with Meditation?

It is important to understand that insomnia and other sleep disorders cannot be cured by meditation. Meditation is an aid to better sleep and can provide many benefits, but don’t assume it works for everyone or represents a final cure.

In spite of this fact, research increasingly proves that meditation—particularly mindfulness meditation—is a valid treatment for chronic insomnia. To treat insomnia, you can benefit from regular sleep meditation, but don’t expect it to be a quick or complete fix.

The Elements of Meditation that Benefit Sleep

There can be a lot of variety in guided meditations designed for sleep, but several elements are common to many. They are used to promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, trigger deep sleep, and generally help you sleep better and longer. These typical sleep meditation elements are what make them so beneficial when you’re trying to cope with insomnia and other sleep issues:

Breath Focus

Focusing on breathing is a great mindfulness technique. It takes your attention away from the thoughts of the day that cause stress and the worries about tomorrow, causing you anxiety. It frees up your mind for sleep and relaxes the body.

Breathing exercises in sleep meditations typically focus on breath rate. They encourage you to slow down your breathing, which triggers a relaxation response in the body. This prepares you to unwind and go to sleep.

Body Scan Meditation

Another mindfulness strategy is to pay attention to your body in the present moment. This is a common element of sleep guides because it switches off your brain and racing thoughts with mindfulness while also relaxing the body.

During a body scan meditation, you will be asked to focus on each part of your body, one at a time. You’ll notice how it feels and take a moment to relax the muscles.


Some meditations ask you to count in a specific way, not necessarily just up from one. A slightly more challenging way of counting, such as backward from 1,000, helps your brain release other thoughts. As a mindfulness technique, it doesn’t so much focus on the present moment as it takes your mind elsewhere.

Day Review

A retracing of your day is yet another tool to distract your mind. It’s not right for everyone, though. Another strategy might be better if you had a particularly bad or stressful day or are simply struggling to stop thinking about it.

Sometimes, a review of the day helps because it focuses your thoughts on something specific. You will retrace your steps and actions in as much detail as you can. Spend several seconds on each event, no matter how small. With any luck, you’ll be asleep before you even get to breakfast.


Visualization is a popular meditation technique. You can use it in all kinds of meditations for various purposes. Visualizing something helps you to manifest it. Guided imagery and visualization are good options if you need an escape from your day and from the worries of tomorrow.

In the case of sleep, meditation might guide you to picture a relaxing setting. Ease into a peaceful spot, like a beachside cabin in the moonlight, that helps you feel calm and ready for sleep.

How to Do a Guided Sleep Meditation

Start by finding guided meditations for sleep. Once you have picked some out to try, you can relax, settle into bed or another comfortable spot, and prepare to improve your sleep:

  1. Find a quiet place. Meditation requires focus, which means you need a place free from distraction. Find a quiet spot and make sure anyone else in the home knows not to interrupt you.
  2. Get comfortable. To focus, you also need to be comfortable. You can’t be still for long if you get a cramp or lose feeling in your feet. You might have to experiment with this a little but find a spot and position that is comfortable. You can meditate sitting or lying down in bed if you plan to drift directly into sleep.
  3. Listen to the meditation. When you’re ready, turn on the guided meditation and listen. A soothing voice will describe what you should do as you meditate. They’ve done the work of creating the practice. You only need to follow it.
  4. Focus and refocus. Meditation takes practice. Initially, you will find it difficult to focus. That’s ok. Simply recognize that your mind wanders and bring it back to the voice in the meditation. Don’t worry about what you missed or about rewinding the meditation. Being able to swing your thoughts back into focus is a valuable practice, and you will get better with it over time.

The Best Meditations for Sleep

Choose a sleep meditation for insomnia based on what interests you and works. If you’re unsure where to start, BetterSleep is an excellent resource. You can find all kinds of guided meditations for people of all ages and experience levels. All will ultimately help you sleep better, but some are explicitly designed as sleep meditations:

  • Become Your Own Sleep Expert. Combine sleep meditation with education. Dr. Ryan C. Warner, a clinical psychologist, leads this meditation that will soothe you into sleep while explaining how it all works.
  • 7 Nights of Blissful Rest. A series of meditations are a great way to dive into a new practice. This week-long series helps you unwind each night and find a smooth path to improved sleep.
  • Hypnotherapy for Better Sleep. Another series, this eight-part meditation, includes hypnotherapy. This valid psychological technique uses the focus of meditation to make the mind more suggestible. With guidance, learn how to train your brain to sleep better.
  • SOS Middle of the Night. If your sleep problems include waking in the middle of the night and being unable to drift off again, you need this rescue meditation. It will help you get back to dreamland in about 15 minutes.
  • Deep Sleep Yoga Nidra. Try this ancient yoga practice to promote deeper, more restful sleep. Lasting just under an hour, it includes visualizations.
  • The Military Method for Sleep. For nights when you don’t have time to mess around, practice this proven technique for falling asleep within minutes. The entire meditation is just seven minutes long, and once you learn it, you can use it anywhere.
  • Mindfulness Meditation for Sleep. Much of the research on the benefits of meditation focus on mindfulness. This simple, 15-minute practice will help you discover how to be more mindful while also using it to get to sleep.
  • Sleep Meditation for Covidsomnia. The pandemic of the last few years has done a lot of damage, including to the mental health of survivors. Try this meditation if you still struggle with a difficult emotional response to the pandemic or ongoing long COVID symptoms.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This is an easy, quick, and effective pre-bed meditation for anyone who carries the stresses of the day in their tense muscles.

Can Meditation Ever Be Bad for Sleep?

Meditation is overwhelmingly good for you. It benefits physical and emotional health and, for most people, improves sleep. There are rare exceptions to this, and some reasons that meditation for sleep is not suitable for everyone.

Physical Discomfort

Sleep meditations aren’t often an issue because you can do them while lying in bed. However, the traditional position for meditating is sitting. Some people find this uncomfortable and get stiff or sore. People with limited mobility or joint issues can find it challenging to get into a suitable meditating position and stay there for an extended period.

Emotional Responses

Very rarely do some people have a terrible emotional reaction to meditating. Meditation is more likely to reduce mental health symptoms but could increase anxiety and depression.


There is so much good press for meditation, and many studies and papers show how beneficial it is for most people. All the hype can lead to unrealistic expectations for someone with a severe sleep disorder.

Meditation is not a cure for insomnia or any other sleep condition. It can be beneficial, but some people might experience disappointment because they still struggle with sleep.

When to See a Doctor for Sleep Problems

If you try meditation and other strategies to improve sleep and still can’t beat your insomnia or feel unrested during the day, it’s time to see your doctor. They can rule out any other illnesses or identify underlying conditions causing insomnia. They will also provide expert advice and treatment options.

The benefits of guided sleep meditation are enormous. If you struggle with sleep and have tried other strategies without success, begin a meditation practice. You won’t regret it, and you will get benefits for your well-being beyond sleeping.

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