A good night of restful sleep is key to feeling your best and maintaining an optimal energy level throughout the day. Furthermore, new studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation can lead to decreased cardiovascular function and negative effects on breathing.
The problem is, try as some of us might, it may be difficult to fall asleep at night and truly get the amount of rest that we need, despite our best efforts to get into bed early. One excellent solution to clear your mind of the worrisome thoughts keeping you awake is to meditate, even for a few moments, each night before going to bed
A great deal of research has linked lack of sleep to heart issues, metabolic problems and obesity, however, in these studies, total sleep deprivation was the factor that was tested. In the real world, most of us do not experience completely sleepless nights very often.
However, nights where only a few precious hours are enjoyed are quite common. A group of new studies from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom tested the effects of partial sleep deprivation on breath control and blood vessel function, and found that both were decreased after only two nights.
In one of the studies, a research team tested eight adult volunteers between the ages of 20 and 35, all in good health. For two nights, the team monitored the blood vessels of the volunteers during 8 full hours of sleep. For the following three nights, volunteers slept for only four hours.
Test results showed a significant decrease in vascular function for the first two partial-sleep nights. On the third night, vascular function went back to normal. Study leader Keith Pugh theorizes that this was due to an adaptive response by the body to the stress of dealing with diminished sleep for this length of time. Longer lengths of partial sleep deprivation were not tested in this study.
Another study within the group exposed the volunteers to high levels of carbon dioxide, which in normal conditions has been shown to increase the rate and depth of breathing cycles. However, after partial sleep deprivation, the volunteers’ ability to control their breathing was found to be drastically reduced.
After the studies were performed, volunteers from both groups were studied after five nights of consecutive 10-hour sleep cycles. When tests were repeated, the subjects’ vascular function and breath control had both returned to normal.
According to Pugh, “if acute sleep loss occurs repetitively over a long period of time, then vascular health could be compromised further and eventually mediate the development of cardiovascular disease.”
The results of these studies show how important a full eight hours of restful sleep is to the body, especially to optimal heart and lung health and capacity. Meditating regularly before going to sleep can boost your ability to get to sleep quicker, and can improve the depth and quality of your sleep.
This practice has been shown to quiet the mind, removing distractions and racing thoughts from your attention, allowing you to fall asleep more easily without the burden of being kept awake by the events and quandaries of the day. Meditation has also been shown to aid in dealing with issues and worries, even repressed worries, that left unresolved may keep you up at night.
While it is ideal to meditate for fifteen to thirty minutes, life is busy, and especially with children and shifting schedules, it may be difficult to find some extra time on a regular basis. The good news is, meditation can still be drastically beneficial to your life even it is is practiced for only a few moments.
The best times are before bed, so you can sleep easy, and then again in the morning before you start your day, so your mind is composed and ready to face the day’s struggles and ever-changing agendas.
It is very easy to get started enjoying the many benefits of meditation. While many different methods and philosophies exist that are worth acquainting yourself with, to start, all it takes is conscious breathing.
The roots of the great majority of meditation types are awareness and breath control. Before you go to bed tonight, take a few moments to simply relax your body and focus on your breathing. Try to focus on nothing but the feeling of your breath entering and exiting your body, and keep this attention for as long as you can. In a shorter time than you imagine, you will be surprised by the improved quality of your sleep, and your overall feeling of balance.
-The Alternative Daily