Written by Megan Howard, Guest Writer
21st-century women are powerhouses—performing a precarious balancing act between work, family, friends, and wellness. While the pressure of responsibility can be motivational, it can also become overwhelming.
An empowered woman in the modern world is one who knows that she is worthy of self-love and takes the time to practice it. Nurturing your body and mind is fundamental to your overall well-being; you cannot draw water from an empty well. When you find yourself staring at your ceiling night after night, unable to get the nourishing rest that you need, your body is telling you that it needs some TLC.
Studies have shown that women in particular benefit from mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation that’s designed to enhance self-compassion and deal with negative sensations like guilt or anger. Generally speaking, men choose distractive methods for dealing with stress or emotional issues. In contrast, women are more likely to fixate on the stress they feel. This may explain why mindfulness meditation works better for them.
Practicing self-compassion and sitting with emotions in a non-judgmental, mindful, objective way has proven useful for decreasing anxiety and chronic stress in women. Consistent practice of mindfulness meditation can balance your internal environment and help combat insomnia.
Where to Start with Meditation for Sleep
Many women feel intimidated by meditation. They visualize picture-perfect, peaceful women in brand-new yoga pants sitting in a studio, burning incense, and listening to esoteric music. This is an idealized version of what meditation is, especially when using it for sleep.
You don’t need to look a certain way, buy any accessories, or adhere to any conventions that don’t work for you.
Meditating is about practicing self-care and self-awareness, and this practice can take many forms. Some women prefer guided meditations, some silent. Some like to sit while they meditate, others prefer to lie down. It’s all about your comfort as an individual.
Women all over the world have combated sleeplessness with guided meditation—a form of meditation wherein a meditation leader or narrator guides you through various breathing exercises, visualization techniques, and affirmations.
There are many free guided meditations on platforms like YouTube and Spotify—several channels offer specialized guided meditations aimed at achieving better sleep. The Women’s Meditation Network offers a vast array of guided meditation practices, many of which are specifically designed for women suffering from insomnia.
How to Prepare for Meditation
If you’re planning on meditating before you go to sleep, make sure you’ve completed all your tasks for the day. You don’t want to be 10 minutes in, only to remember that you haven’t sent an important email or fed the cat.
Once you’re sure that all your responsibilities are taken care of, prepare your space. This just means making whatever preparations within your immediate surroundings that make you feel comfortable and relaxed. This can involve lighting candles, drawing the curtains, playing peaceful music, or anything else that calms and comforts you.
Next, prepare yourself.
A highly important element of successful meditation is comfort, so dress according to what relaxes you. This could be anything from yoga pants and a sports bra to sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt—the choice is yours. As long as you can relax into your practice without feeling too hot, cold, restricted, or vulnerable, you’re on the right track.
Finally, get into position. You can meditate wherever you feel comfortable—in bed, on a chair, a cushion, a yoga mat, or anywhere else that suits you. If your goal is to fall asleep, meditating in bed might be the best option, as you can simply drift off once you feel ready. Just be sure to blow out any candles first!
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and begin your meditation practice of choice.
A guided sleep talkdown is a good choice for the purpose of getting better sleep. Depending on the source, guided sleep talkdowns generally take you through a series of exercises and cognitive processes that prepare your mind and body for sleep. This usually includes deep breathing, deep muscle relaxation, and calming visualizations.
If guided meditation doesn’t resonate with you, mindfulness meditation is a fantastic alternative.
Mindfulness meditation is closer to traditional meditation—the simple practice of clearing your mind and observing the sensations in your body without judgment or expectation. This practice can help you to have emotional clarity and deal with stress from an observational perspective.
Mindfulness meditation combined with deep breathing and calming visualization techniques can effectively put you in a state of blissful relaxation, from where it is much easier to fall asleep.
Why Meditation is Important for Women
Generally speaking, meditation reduces stress from daily hassles and the constant pressure of busy schedules. It also calms long-term anxiety about areas of life such as motherhood, career, relationships, and family. This in turn makes it easier to fall asleep and remain asleep for 7-9 hours.
On a deeper level, however, research has shown that meditation increases the production of the neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a key role in sleep by regulating your circadian rhythms—letting your body know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.
Serotonin is a mood-altering hormone used in the formation of melatonin. These sleep hormones kick in to get your body ready for sleep – reducing the heart rate, decreasing the blood pressure, and slowing brain activity.
Studies have revealed that women suffer from insomnia, anxiety, and depression far more frequently than men. This could be due to a number of factors such as hormonal fluctuation during menstruation and pregnancy, sociocultural factors such as abuse or familial pressure, or psychological factors relating to gender.
Combatting these issues can be daunting for even the strongest of us, and there is too often insufficient external support for them. This is why meditation is such a valuable tool. It puts the control back into your hands and helps your body get the restorative, revitalizing sleep it so desperately needs.
Next time you’re feeling stressed, anxious, and tired, give meditating a try. You may need to try a few different ways of meditating until you find the one that works best for you. Everyone is different, but relaxation and healthy sleep patterns benefit us all.