In today’s fast-paced world, there’s always somewhere you need to be, things that need to get done, deadlines to beat, and people to meet. There’s a sense of urgency to everything. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life to the detriment of your well-being.
With stress and burnout at an all-time high, more and more people are struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can be hard to silence the mind and disconnect from daily responsibilities to get some much needed shut-eye at the end of the day.
There’s no doubt that meditation can positively impact your mental health and general well-being, while improving your sleep. The real question is: When is the best time to meditate to reap its full benefits? Here’s everything you need to know.
First Thing in the Morning
Meditating when you get up is a great way to start the day. It sets the tone, and you’re less likely to encounter interruptions from family members or work commitments early in the morning.
If you’re looking to make meditation a habit, you’re more likely to stick to it if you commit to doing it in the morning rather than putting it off till later when your schedule is likely to change.
The quiet time you get in those early hours gives you the mental clarity to focus fully on your meditation and ease into the day without feeling rushed. Even a brief mindfulness meditation can benefit your emotional regulation, attention, and memory.
But does meditating in the morning benefit your ability to sleep at night? By clearing your mind before the day begins, morning meditation can get your day started on the right note and keep you in a good head space throughout the day so that there’s less stress on your mind at bedtime. If you prefer to meditate shortly after you get up, set an intention for the day.
Something as simple as, “I can handle anything that comes my way today,” can help you maintain a calm and positive attitude all day, giving you the clarity you need to handle any stressful situation life throws your way. Being calm and aware throughout the day will make it easier to decompress and clear your head when it’s time to sleep.
During Your Lunch Break
If you’re not a morning person, the idea of getting up earlier than you have to just to meditate may not sound the least bit appealing.
The good news is—you don’t have to meditate first thing in the morning to reap the benefits of a meditation practice and sleep better at night. The goal is to schedule meditation when you’re most likely to do it, even if that time is in the middle of the day.
Meditating during your lunch break is a great way to decompress and re-energize your mind for the afternoon ahead. Granted, meditating in the middle of the workday may not be feasible for you, depending on the nature of your job.
However, if you can find a nice, quiet place away from your desk, perhaps an empty office, an unoccupied conference room, or even your car, it’s the perfect opportunity to center yourself, silence your thoughts, and calm your mind.
If you work from home, consider finding a private little spot in your backyard or anywhere in your house where you’re least likely to be interrupted.
By taking a break in the middle of your day to clear your mind, you reset the tone of your day and interrupt any stress that might weigh on you in the evening and affect your ability to sleep well.
Immediately After Work
If morning and lunchtime meditations are out of the question, consider practicing meditation when you get home from work. Switching from “work mode” to “chill mode” after a stressful day isn’t always the easiest.
Struggling to let go of work stress often results in unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking too much, making unhealthy food choices, or binge-watching Netflix shows late into the night, even when you need to get up early the next day.
Meditation is an effective way of decompressing, calming your mind, and letting go of the day’s stress. It allows you to slowly unwind and ease into your evening while conditioning your brain to calm down in preparation for sleep.
It is worth noting that the type of meditation you do in the evening matters. Ensure that it is a relaxing practice to help you shift into a restful and calm state. Think candle-gazing meditation with relaxing nature sounds playing in the background.
On the other hand, an energizing meditation designed to invigorate you and boost your energy levels is not recommended in the evening. Save that for your morning or lunch break meditation.
Recommended: Enchanted Fairy Forest Meditation Music
There are differing opinions on whether or not meditating right before bed is a good idea.
For some people, bedtime is the only time they fully unwind. The dishes are done, the living room has been straightened up, the dogs have been walked, and the kids are all tucked in—the house has quieted down, making it the perfect time to meditate.
Yet, others find it difficult to stay focused, aware, and alert when meditating before bed and usually doze off a few minutes in. While this might not seem like a bad thing, especially if your goal is to meditate for better sleep, it can actually make sleeping well more challenging.
The whole point of meditation is mindfulness. To be mindful, you need to be in a state of awake and aware consciousness. You need to focus your awareness on the present moment to fully experience your emotions, thoughts, and the sensations flowing through your body.
Meditation allows you to tap into this level of heightened awareness. It lets you identify the pain points that might be stressing you out. That way, you can feel, process, and release those emotions. This is one of the most beneficial effects of meditation.
If you doze off during meditation without giving your brain the time to process and release its stress from the day, you might wake up in the middle of the night still consumed in worries and negativity. It’s better to give your brain quality, wakeful time to unwind from the day before attempting to fall asleep for the night.
That said, if you can remain focused, aware, and alert when meditating right before bed, and no other time of day suits you, that’s when you should do it.
When You Need to Calm Your Mind
The time of day you choose to meditate or the number of times you meditate in a day doesn’t have to be set in stone. Meditation is supposed to calm and center you, especially in those moments when you feel stressed out, anxious, or overwhelmed.
If a project you’re working on, an event you’re planning, or a looming work deadline is causing you stress and anxiety, then pause for a few minutes to close your eyes, take 10 deep breaths, acknowledge the emotions you’re feeling, and release them.
Using mantra meditation, recite some affirmations to help you process those emotions and anchor your mind to a more positive intention. Once you feel calm and centered, you can tackle stressful situations calmly and productively.
Any time you feel overwhelmed is a great time to meditate. Even a quick 5-minute meditation session can be hugely beneficial for clearing your head. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day and have a hard time quieting your mind long enough to fall asleep, try doing a short guided meditation session to decompress.
Research shows that meditation subdues the activity of the brain’s amygdala, the part of your brain involved in emotion, while strengthening the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that deals with decision-making and productivity.
You become less reactive to stress-inducers and recover faster when you experience them. Plus, you’re better able to make good decisions that positively impact your health.
After a Workout
Meditation is a great way to cool down, catch your breath, center your mind, and release any built up post-workout tension you might have.
Whether you’ve just finished a yoga, gym, or running session, you can sit quietly and meditate as you cool down for a few minutes. Focus on your breath while listening to your heartbeat before rushing to the next activity.
Regular exercise can promote the production of endorphins, the body’s “feel good” hormones. Endorphins help you relax and can shorten the recovery time between workouts, while enhancing your meditative state.
By reducing your stress hormones and increasing your endorphins, exercise and meditation together make it easier to deeply relax and sleep at night.
When Is the Best Time to Meditate? Whenever Your Schedule Allows
While certain times of day are more suited to meditation than others with regard to the likelihood of interruptions, there isn’t a hard and fast rule. A recent study that investigated the effects of meditating in the morning versus evening found that both times improved sleep and mental well-being.
If, for whatever reason, morning, lunchtime, after-work, post-workout, or bedtime meditation just doesn’t work for you, find a time that does and schedule it in. What matters is that you commit to it and do it consistently.
You can listen to a guided meditation during your commute to work, at the school parking lot once you drop your kids off, in your car before or immediately after your shift, or while you’re folding laundry—it doesn’t matter. The point is to do it.
Importance of Building Good Sleep Habits
While incorporating a meditation practice into your daily routine is a great way to improve the quality of your sleep, it is just one piece of the puzzle.
Meditation practice won’t be as effective if you do other things contributing to your insomnia. It works best if you apply it in the context of your overall sleep hygiene.
Here are some do and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Start winding down 45-60 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid napping during the day. If you must nap, keep it short (no more than 30 minutes) and don’t nap after 3 p.m.
- Don’t drink alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages at least 10-12 hours before bedtime.
- Get out of bed and read a book if you haven’t dozed off within 30 minutes.
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
- If sound helps you sleep, consider listening to soothing sounds, guided sleep meditations, pink noise, or white noise.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day—including on the weekends.
When you get into bed, don’t try to fall asleep. The more effort you put into falling asleep, the more likely you’ll be to stay awake. Instead, let go of trying and just relax into the present moment.
When practicing meditation, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath. Feel the sensation of your chest rising and falling with each breath you take. If your mind wanders (which it inevitably will), bring your attention back to your breath. You’ll be asleep before you know it.
If you’re having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, consider carving out some meditation time. Taking even five minutes out of your day to sit quietly, close your eyes, and focus on your breath delivers a myriad of benefits to your mental health and well-being, while improving the quality and quantity of your sleep.
The truth is—there’s no right or wrong time to meditate. The important thing is to find a suitable time and place to sit quietly, focus on the present moment, and fully experience your thoughts and emotions to center yourself and calm your mind.
If that time happens to be early in the morning, over your lunch break, after getting home from work, late at night after the house has quieted down, or after your workout, that’s when you should do it.
In the meantime, have you tried vibrational meditation? Learn why it’s so effective in promoting deep relaxation.