Sleep and I have always had a complicated relationship. Instead of being a steady and reliable friend, sleep is more like an acquaintance that stays away because of my current—and rather unhealthy—relationship with a little thing called insomnia.
I’ve tried many things to get those eight hours of sleep, but there was one thing I hadn’t tried with any sort of consistency: a meditation practice. After reading about how sleep meditation can help, I decided to set out on a meditation journey to see if it would help me fall asleep faster and improve my overall quality of sleep.
To achieve this, I committed to Peloton’s two-week The Power of Sleep program, led by instructors Ross Rayburn, Aditi Shah, Anna Greenberg, and Kristin McGee. The program introduces different types of meditation practices, which ultimately helped me experiment with what suits me and how to tailor future meditation practices to my needs.
Considering trying the program for yourself? Here’s what to expect, as well as some key lessons I learned during my own experience. (Spoiler alert: It definitely helped!)
On the first two days of the program, my thoughts wandered during the five-minutes of class, despite my efforts to rein them in. But as a relative newbie to meditation, it reassured me to hear Aditi placing a strong emphasis on mindfulness and returning to the present moment. I didn’t feel pressured to stay focused on anything specific, but the encouragement allowed me to have grace with myself as I brought my thoughts back to the present.
Day three is a guided meditation with Anna. Out of the practices in the first three days, this one resonated with me the most. Visualizing a peaceful environment and letting go of an imagined manifestation of the day gave the active side of my mind a purpose and something concrete to focus on, allowing it to quiet faster than usual.
In contrast, day four proved more of a struggle. I know many people who benefit from reflection meditations, but for a constant ruminator, I found it difficult not to dwell on the day’s events—both positive and negative—despite Kristin’s focus on letting go. Vowing not to let this discourage me, I brought what I learned from my struggles on day four into day five.
The final two days of week one invite more awareness into the body. The rhythmic breathwork released the leftover tension I carried in my body from the work week, and the body scan honed my awareness of where I tend to carry my stress in my muscles.
Wrapping up the first week, I took with me a suggestion from Ross to make note of what works for you, but also be compassionate and patient with yourself. While I was tempted to feel discouraged about the days I struggled to stay present and mindful, I remembered that, just as with any physical workout, my mental best will inevitably vary from day to day.
Week two expands upon the foundations in week one, beginning with the introduction of a mantric meditation. Similar to the guided meditations from week one, having a thought or an idea to focus on helped me find a sense of calm and relaxation as I slipped into sleep.
For me, the rest of week two followed in the footsteps of week one. There were easier days and days where my attention wandered, depending on how I felt and the type of meditation. As the classes grew longer—ranging from 10 to 15 minutes—I discovered that it was easier to rein in my thoughts by the class’s halfway mark. Where the five-minute meditations introduced me to the practice and techniques, the 10- or 15-minute meditations provided ample time to fully use those techniques. In fact, they might have worked a little too well, because the longer the meditations, the more I found myself drifting off to sleep before the classes ended!
Throughout the two weeks of the program, I started to notice that, between learning how to release tension I held in my body from the day and focusing on mindfulness, I fell asleep faster than I have in the past. I still woke periodically throughout the night, but I used mindfulness approaches to help me return to sleep. And on the nights when that didn’t work, I used body scan and breathwork techniques.
Due to the changes in my sleep quality, the wake up process was less miserable than it usually is (and I’m one of those people who doesn’t wake up fully until about 10 am, after a cup or two of coffee). I was still groggy first thing after waking, but thankfully, the grogginess didn’t linger nearly as long as usual.
At work, I felt more awake and alert and found myself reaching for my cup of coffee less often. Throughout the day, I stole moments here and there to do a quick body scan and check in with where tension started to creep in and how I could let it go. This, in turn, improved my ability to relax at night.
All in all, the benefits I found over those two weeks encouraged me to continue with my practice beyond the program. Between learning various approaches to mindfulness and gaining the tools I need to calm my mind and release tension, sleep meditation helped in ways I didn’t expect. My insomnia may not be cured, but finally, my formerly complicated relationship with sleep is now more committed and stable.
Read on to learn about how sleep meditation works.