Tackling Insomnia Through Meditation

An estimated 30% of U.S. adults have insomnia, the most common type of sleep disorder, and 10% of people have chronic insomnia lasting longer than six months. Sleep deprivation can significantly impact functioning, mood, health, and overall quality of life, making it important that insomnia gets treated.

Meditation is a relaxation technique that typically involves slow, deep breathing and paying attention to your body. It has been shown to be helpful with insomnia.

Read on for more information about meditation, how it can help insomnia, benefits and drawbacks of meditation, and other insomnia treatments as well.

Woman meditating on her bed

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Benefits of Meditation for Insomnia

The research on meditation has shown that it can help with a variety of conditions. Studies have found that it can improve sleep quality and help treat insomnia. It may also reduce pain and improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Meditation helps calm a person by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormone cortisol. It also helps with racing thoughts and emotion regulation.

Different Ways to Meditate

There are many different ways to meditate, and you may use different techniques at different times, depending on what is easiest or most appropriate.

During the Day

There are various ways to meditate that may be easier to do during the day, when you are active and involved in other activities. For example, while walking around, you can do a walking meditation, focusing on your breath and your body’s physical sensations.

Other kinds of mind-body meditations you can do during the day that can help with insomnia include:

Mindfulness meditation is another option. It can be practiced anywhere at any time, even while brushing your teeth. It involves simply being aware of what you are doing in the present moment. Don’t think about the future or what else you have to do that day; just focus on what you are doing right then and there.

Another popular kind of meditation is heartfulness meditation, in which you sit quietly, breathe, and focus on the idea of light and love originating from your heart.

At Night

Both mindfulness and heartfulness meditation can be done at night, too. Another good option that can help combat insomnia is body scan meditation, also known as progressive muscle relaxation. It involves focusing on your breath while consciously relaxing different parts of your body. Guided meditations available on audio might also be helpful; you can listen to these while in bed and allow the recording to lead the meditation practice.

What Are Different Kinds of Meditation?

Some of the more common meditation techniques include guided meditation, mindfulness meditation, and body scan meditation.

In guided meditation, another person leads the meditation, and you follow their prompts. Mindfulness meditation encourages you to let go of judgment and negativity by focusing only on what you're feeling in the present moment. Body scan meditation helps you notice if you're carrying tension in certain areas of your body, with the goal of relaxing from head to toe.

Habits That Contribute to Insomnia

If you're dealing with insomnia, be sure to take a good look at your personal habits, since many behaviors can contribute to sleep problems. These include:

  • Consuming too much caffeine, which is a stimulant
  • Using nicotine, another stimulant
  • Napping late in the afternoon
  • Using electronic devices like laptops, smartphones, or TV right before bed since screen light from these devices can interfere with your circadian rhythms, which regulate your sleep-wake cycle
  • Using your bed for activities besides sleep, such as work, which can cause your brain to associate being in bed with being awake, which can interfere with sleep
  • Eating heavy meals or spicy foods too close to bedtime

Meditation Drawbacks

Although rare, some people experience negative side effects to meditation, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Emotional dulling/blunting
  • Feelings of dissociation
  • Problems with arousal or energy levels
  • Disrupted sleep/wake cycles
  • Executive functioning problems (trouble with memory, thinking, making decisions)

More research is needed to determine why some people experience these issues. If this happens to you, check in with your healthcare provider.

Other Insomnia Treatments

Meditation is, of course, just one of many treatments for insomnia. You may find that a combination of approaches works best; your healthcare provider can help you sort through the options and develop a treatment plan for you.

Treatment for insomnia can include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, a common type of talk therapy that helps identify and change negative thought patterns
  • Stimulus control therapy, in which you avoid stimulating activities with the goal of strengthening the association between the bedroom and sleep
  • Sleep restriction, also known as paradoxical intention therapy, which involves limiting the amount of time you spend in bed and avoiding naps
  • Exercise (but not before bed)
  • Relaxation therapy
  • Medication
  • The "z-drugs," which are zolpidem (brand name Ambien), eszopiclone (brand name Lunesta), and zaleplon (brand name Sonata)
  • Hypnotics such as benzodiazepines like Ativan (lorazepam). These should not be the primary therapy for chronic insomnia, due to the potential for misuse and abuse.
  • Antihistamines, although regular use is not recommended because of the risk of side effects
  • Antidepressants

Sleep hygiene education is also a potential treatment for insomnia. It helps people identify and change lifestyle behaviors that are contributing to insomnia.


Insomnia is more than just annoying—it can significantly disrupt a person's life and contribute to illness. Treatment is important, but taking medication isn't always the first step.

Meditation can help improve sleep quality by lowering blood pressure and stress hormones while calming racing thoughts. There are different types and you may need to try different approaches before you find the one that works for you. If you’re still not getting any relief, talk with your healthcare provider about other insomnia treatments.

A Word From Verywell

Meditation can be an effective treatment for insomnia, but it's not for everyone. If it doesn't work for you, there are a number of other treatments for insomnia to try.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should you use a guided sleep meditation app for insomnia?

    Some people love meditation apps, others don't—it all depends on the person. But using an app does mean you’re tied to an electronic device, and if you’re trying to avoid devices in the hours leading up to bed, this defeats the purpose.

  • Does meditation really work for insomnia?

    Everyone is different, but multiple studies have found that yes, meditation can be effective in helping to treat insomnia. A 2020 meta-analysis (a statistical analysis combining the results of many studies) found that meditation, particularly mindfulness-based stress reduction, not only helped with insomnia symptoms but also improved sleep quality. Another study looked at heartfulness meditation and found that it significantly improved insomnia symptoms in people with chronic insomnia.

  • Where can you find free sleep meditation resources?

    MIT Medical has a resource page with free daytime and bedtime meditation exercises. Stanford Health Library has a page with free guided meditations in both English and Spanish.


14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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