Meditating to Sleep

Don’t believe all that bullshit you find on the web that mindfulness is a cure for sleeplessness. It certainly hasn’t been for me. My meditation practice has been more of a lifeline than a cure.

I have struggled a little more than two years with sleeplessness. The worst of it seems to have passed only about six months ago. In the lowest of low moments, the most panicked ones where sleep was utterly unattainable, my meditation practice was the only thing I could do to rest. In these moments, I wondered whether I would ever figure out how to sleep again. I had almost lost the knack for it.

I found, however, that with time, it’s gotten a lot better. It isn’t perfect yet. I still have nights where I wake up a few times and where the dreams are vivid. Nevertheless, I’ve found that if I follow my breath, particularly the exhale, I can now drift back to sleep.

If my mind wanders a lot, I incorporate the so-hum mantra. I internally say “so” as I inhale and “hum” as I exhale. I don’t, however, do much deep, diaphragmatic breathing in the middle of the night. I find that it is too stimulating and activating when what I want is to rest. So I try to relax in the rhythm of "so-hum," and when my mind is connected and present with the breath, I let the mantra go and come back to just the natural expansion and contraction of the chest and belly.

I’ve also found that there are some nights where I’m so activated that if I continue lie in bed and wait to drift off that I get frustrated. So I bought this meditation cushion and placed it right next to my bed. It’s particularly useful because it’s got some cushion to it, and I can adjust the position of the back, so I am neither bolt upright or horizontal. I’ll get out of bed if I cannot fall back to sleep after 15 minutes and plop right down onto it and do my meditation until I start to drift off to sleep. At the longest, that can take a few hours, but usually, it’s only 20 or 30 minutes.

It isn’t perfect, and I wouldn’t consider it a cure, but it’s helped a lot. And honestly, what else is there to do in the middle of the night?