Meditation for sleep: everything you need to know

Verified on 09/20/2022 by PasseportSanté

The secret of meditation is, above all, knowing how to welcome the present moment… Today very established both in the United States and in Europe, mindfulness meditation, for example, also known by the acronym MBSR for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, has fully demonstrated its health benefits, and the scientific evidence regarding its positive impact continues to grow.

Meditation turns out to be a serious avenue to explore for people suffering from sleep disorders, because it helps in particular to cope with stressful daily stimuli. Meditation has, in fact, an impact on the electrical activity of the brain, favoring the emission of specific waves present during falling asleep. It also causes the secretion of the sleep hormone, called melatonin.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

“Mindfulness can be defined as a state of consciousness that results from paying attention, intentionally, in the present moment, without judging, to experience unfolding moment by moment,” wrote Jon Kabat-Zinn in 2003. . And in fact, for millennia, man has meditated. In all traditions, all cultures, all spiritualities. To the point that nephrologist Corinne Isnard Bagnis, trained in mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, affirms: “meditation seems to be part of the essence of man”.

Thus, meditation turns out to be an extraordinary learning in order to acquire more calm and concentration. It also helps to develop curiosity or even self-confidence, and even openness to others. However, while the brains are more and more monopolized as much by video games as by mobile phones and other computers, the power of a few daily meditation exercises, even very simple ones, can be spectacular.

A millennial approach

Mindfulness meditation comes from Buddhist philosophy as well as the vipassana tradition. It is therefore a thousand-year-old approach, but which was popularized from 1975 by the American doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn. The latter, also a university professor, thus drew from it a secular program called MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction). This program focuses on how to use mindfulness to deal with stressful everyday stimuli: these can, in fact, be internal, such as sensations, memories, anticipations, thoughts and emotions, or even external. The conscious space of reception of these stimuli then makes it possible to respond more consciously and intelligently to the challenges of everyday life.

For more than forty years, the effects of mindfulness meditation have been evaluated: it allows a significant reduction in stress and anxiety. And people suffering from chronic illness, including sleep disorders, have seen their quality of life improve and some of their symptoms decrease: this is the case for people with sleep disorders, therefore, but also for patients with pain, or even people with eating disorders. In the Western world, a program has spread widely: lasting eight weeks at the rate of 2h30 per group, it also combines individual daily practice.

A secular meditation practice

Inspired by different traditions, mindfulness meditation can be defined as a secular meditative practice: it has become accessible to all, and is not necessarily associated with spirituality or religion, nor with rituals or prayers. It is now well established in the United States as well as in Europe. It allows you to better live your daily life, by offering this perspective: that of staying in good health, and taking care of yourself.

Finally, mindfulness meditation can restore or strengthen physical, mental and social well-being. It is an art of care, but also an art of living. “Her secret? Welcoming the present moment,” says Corinne Isnard Bagnis.

Waves specific to rest recorded in the brain

The electrical activity of our brain, which can be measured by electroencephalography, permanently translates the multiple states of consciousness of a person, each of which corresponds to the emission of different cerebral waves, and this, in a range of particular frequency which is measured in hertz.

  • beta waves (12 to 30 hertz): these fast waves are emitted by our brain when it is on standby;
  • specific gamma waves (around 40 hertz): they appear during intense intellectual and mental activity;
  • alpha waves (8 to 12 hertz): these are important in the event of light relaxation or calm awakening, for example, when a person is sitting on their sofa with their eyes closed;
  • theta waves (4 to 8 hertz): they are observed in deep relaxation, meditation, mainly;
  • delta waves (0.5 to 4 hertz): these waves are mainly found during deep sleep.

According to Dr. Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville, world-renowned hypnotherapist, interviewed for Science et Avenir, “during a day, we only go from one state of consciousness to another”. In fact, some people are able to modulate their brain waves through deep meditation, in particular.

And indeed, certain types of brain waves are observed in people practicing meditation, thanks to measurements made by means of an electroencephalogram. It had already been demonstrated, in particular through various scientific studies published since 2013, that a beneficial influence on the plasticity of the brain is observed following meditation. And finally, the waves emitted by our brain during a meditation practiced during the day turn out to be the following:

  • on the one hand, during relaxation, which is the favored state at the start of a sophrology session, the production of alpha waves is favored: these are the waves present when falling asleep;
  • on the other hand, during a sophrology session, the individual may have to go from alpha waves to theta waves: these are those of light sleep;
  • finally, during particular or long meditative states, it will be possible to generate delta waves, identical to those of deep sleep.

Meditation promotes the secretion of sleep hormone

The increase in the physiological rate of melatonin, the sleep hormone, was also measured in participants who meditated regularly in a study conducted in January 1995 by researchers from Massachusetts: this therefore allowed to demonstrate the influence of meditative practices on the production of this hormone.

However, melatonin is an essential hormone, which participates both in falling asleep and in maintaining our sleep. Indeed, this neurohormone secreted by a gland in our brain is essential for the daytime wakefulness-nighttime sleep rhythm, also called sleep-wake cycles. During the daylight phase, the retina stimulated by light prevents the production of melatonin during the day and in the evening, when the light naturally dims, the less light-infused retina allows the secretion of our natural sleep molecule.

Just as meditation promotes the secretion of melatonin, the benefits of sophrology, another form of meditation, are also found at the level of our brain: in fact, sophrology ensures the production of a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is essential to a good mood. But this serotonin also promotes the secretion of melatonin!

A connection to our physicality through meditation and sophrology

Corporeality, which is the awareness of the presence of the body and of what it expresses, and the benevolent link that one establishes with it, is a factor of lasting balance. However, Western culture seems to have strongly privileged the mind, to the detriment of the body. Thanks to recent techniques of therapeutic accompaniment called psychocorporales, a real place is finally given to the body.

And in fact, it is essential to feel good, to be physically, mentally and emotionally secure at bedtime: this allows access to deep sleep. However, each day has its share of stress, and situations that can be perceived as threatening, even disturbing: but the regular practice of sophrology exercises helps to cushion the impact. Practitioners of sophrology can thus feel calmer in the face of adversity.

“They know, for example, how to breathe to calm down, access rapid muscle relaxation, free themselves from painful tensions, soothe intrusive thoughts. They also know the causes that affect them”, describes sophrologist Mireille Barreau, specialist some sleep. She further specifies: “All these abilities can be trained in a few weeks, in a few months, with regular practice.” People who regularly practice sophrology finally have a well-balanced mental, emotional and physical energy, and make their body, heart and mind interact in a constant way…

Meditation also indicated to fight against depression

Meditation has entered several hospitals in France. Objective: to treat stress and depression. And so, interviewed for Sciences et Avenir, the psychiatrist Gilles Bertschy of the Strasbourg University Hospital indicates: “This new tool, meditation, reduces depressive relapses by 30%. This is the reason why, after a depressive episode, patients can be offered a mindfulness meditation program. And indeed, as Gilles Bertchy reminds us: “Many of us have the feeling of being overwhelmed by information. The brain is overactive, multitasking, distracted. This is why we are increasingly looking for ways to take distance, to take a break.”

Meditation or sophrology are then an ideal remedy… And so, these practices are aimed at patients, and the areas in which they have shown their effectiveness are numerous: in addition to insomnia and depression, it also has positive effects to fight pain, stress and even cancer. Meditative practices have, in particular, effects on our emotions, our attention, our behavior, our ability to remain calm… Or even on our joy, and even the quality of our relationships with others!

And indeed, for Alexandre Duguet, trained in coaching and non-violent communication, “scientific data on the impact of meditation continues to grow”. He who exercises himself to disseminate the benefits of mindfulness meditation thus comments on his experience as a meditator: “Depending on the nature of the thought, a pleasant or less pleasant feeling crosses me. I observe these thoughts, I feel them, I welcome, I don’t judge them. I don’t follow my thoughts, I don’t follow my emotions, I put distance. This observation, this attention, this mindfulness offers me security and space. ” Meditate, to gain serenity…

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Meditation for sleep: everything you need to know

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