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Over the past month I took over the, working to develop a consistent meditation routine. I committed to 30 days of meditation to break down my aversion to the practice and build a healthy routine to reduce stress and anxiety. In the beginning, I started each morning with a three-minute guided meditation, just toacclimated my mind to the idea of daily meditation. The second week, however, was a bit of a struggle: I had switched my routine time to midday and found myself even more stressed. But for the third and fourth weeks, I pivoted towards sleep meditation, which yielded better results than I could have imagined.
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Meditation before bed
After realizing that meditation during the day was not for me, I decided to try meditation for better sleep.meditation can increase serotonin and melatonin (the sleep hormone), decrease blood pressure, and activate parts of the brain that control sleep. This can prevent insomnia and reduce its effects. Now, I don’t necessarily have a terrible time sleeping. Once I get to sleep, I sleep soundly and through the night. The issue for me was getting enough sleep—by the time I’m in bed, it’s late. I needed to learn to take the time to prepare for sleep and not finding more things to do before bed.
Thankfully Headspace has a whole section of their app. To begin my sleep meditation, I selected the “Wind downs” section. This area of the application features a number of scenarios like Switching Off, focused on letting go of the activities of the day; Deep Breathing, using attention to breath to initiate a state of calm; and Falling Back to Sleep, exercises to help you get back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. For my experiment, I chose Switching Off, Sleeping, and Goodnight, all catered to letting go of the day and getting the body ready for sleep.
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Each session asks that you lie on your back, (I’m a side sleeper so this was a change for me). With my noise-canceling headphones on over my satin cap (essential for keeping edges tight), I relaxed as the teacher’s voice instructed me to take deep breaths. On the third breath, you are asked to close your eyes. The guide then brings your attention to different areas of your body like your feet, and then your calves, slowly moving upward on the body. The teacher asks you to imagine parts of the body shutting down like a computer. In between these instructions would be long moments of silence, during which I knocked out like a light. In the beginning, I would jolt myself awake, thinking “Oh no I’ve missed the session!” and I would hear the guide’s voice begin again, telling me to shut down the next area of the body. As days went by, I surrendered to the program and would blissfully fall asleep.
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I noticed a change right away: I awoke refreshed and feeling more energetic physically and mentally for the day. Although I don’t have any issues with restful sleep, I found myself achieving a more beneficial state of sleep due to an intentional sleep routine. I was getting more sleep, and going to bed with a calm mind, rather than a racing one. I continued this practice, choosing different sessions. Some sessions focused only on the breath, while others took time to explain why shutting down is important. All of the sleep sessions start at 10 minutes, which I did not mind after moving from five minutes to 10 in my second week. I even tried 15-minute sessions after a few days.
What a success this challenge was—and it truly was a challenge for someone with such a busy mind. I was able to accept the idea of meditation and consistently participate in a session every day. I found sleep meditation to be the most effective, but I’ll continue to experiment. I see this as a healthy routine that I have and will continue for years to come. I may not get to meditate every day, but it’s become a regular activity in my life.
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