A lot of people who recognise the many benefits of mediation wish that they had enough time in their day to sit down to meditate. For many, the demands of work and family mean that there really isn’t enough time in the day for an hour of guided meditation or even the two 20-minute blocks that I recommend. But the time right before we fall asleep, when we’re tucked into bed and winding down from the day, can be a really powerful and convenient opportunity for meditation. Not only will using the 10 to 20 minutes before we fall asleep help to carve out a dedicated time for meditation each day, but it can also help to improve the quality and quantity of our sleep—great news for anyone who suffers from insomnia, restless sleep, or oversleeping.
Meditation in bed requires somewhat different preparation than other forms of meditation. Preparation begins an hour before you get into bed as you begin gradually slowing down, relaxing, and quieting your mind. During this hour, do your best to avoid screens of any sort as you transition your body and mind away from the digital information world that shapes much of our experience. Even though I love my MacBook and iPad as much as the next millennial, I keep a print book on my bedside table for nighttime reading (some people recommend choosing fiction over nonfiction for bedtime reading). If reading isn’t your thing, another gentle, enjoyably hobby in the hour before you get into bed can be really useful. Use the time to knead your sourdough before its overnight bulk rise, get back to that unfinished puzzle, or begin a new painting. Don’t be tempted to snack late into the evening, but a relaxing tea or turmeric in warm milk can assist your body in preparing for meditation and, eventually, for sleep.
Meditation in Bed
While we often try to avoid falling asleep during meditation, a gentle, gradual movement into sleep is exactly what we are aiming for in bed meditation. There are several techniques that we can use once we are in bed:
- Body scan: This traditional mindfulness technique is often performed lying down, so is the perfect tool to use for bed meditation. Begin by drawing your focus and attention to your feet, gentling guiding your centre of consciousness to your feet and allowing it to rest there for 2-3 minutes. Slowly move your centre of consciousness up to your legs, then your abdomen, chest, throat, and forehead, staying with each for 2-3 minutes. Be gentle and allow your emotions to express themselves in the ways they need to you as move through all parts of the body. When you notice that your mind has begun to drift, gentle invite it to return to the body.
- Guided meditation: bed meditation is the perfect opportunity to listen to guided meditations. Headspace and Insight Timer are two of the apps that I regularly use and love, but there are also countless free guided meditations and visualizations available online. The wide variety of recordings available mean that you can hone in on any particular issues that you faced during the day and select a meditation specifically suited to your needs in that particular moment. If, for instance, you’re particularly stressed from work, dealing with disappointment, or hoping to expand your creativity, there will be guided meditations perfectly suited to your needs.
- Simple mantra: one of the simplest techniques for bed meditation is a simple breath-focused mantra that will regulate your breathing, relax your mind, and lead you gently into a deep sleep. On the in-breath silently say the mantra ‘as I breathe in, I breathe in’ and on the out-breath silently say ‘as I breath out, I breathe out.’ As your mind begins to drift, you can graciously return its attention to the mantra and breath.
- Yoga nidra: something of a combination of guided visualization, mindfulness, and gentle hypnosis, yoga nidra (or ‘yogic sleep’) is another outstanding technique for bed yoga. This is something that you will almost certainly need an online recording to guide you through, but, with advanced training, yoga nidra practitioners are able to lead themselves through this deeply relaxing and restorative practice.
- Gratitude: often overlooked as a form of mindfulness meditation, expression of gratitude can be a powerful way to calm and centre our mind in the moments before we fall asleep. To practice this transformative form of meditation, we should situate ourselves comfortably in bed and then invite our mind to gradually move backwards through our day, pausing to reflect on each small moment that we are grateful for. How many moments during our day have led to gratitude and joy? By the time that we get all the way backward to reflect on the moment we woke up that morning, we will likely have already fallen asleep.
Using the 10-20 minutes before we fall asleep as a time for meditation can help you to develop your daily meditation practice, even if our work and family life means that we never have much time for ourselves.