Do you need help trying to clear your mind before going to bed? Or maybe you find yourself tossing and turning through the night, unable to fall back asleep? Mindfulness and meditation for sleep can be powerful aids in helping you to drift off easily, no matter what sort of day you’ve had. We know that mindfulness and meditation are both used in a range of different cultures and religions, so, what’s the difference for us as Christians?
Mindfulness is a therapeutic approach that encourages us to be consciously aware of something, whether that’s the present moment or a particular activity. As Christians, we can use this technique to help focus on a moment of intimacy with God or a word of scripture connected to our faith. Similarly, meditation is a way of focusing our minds on something specific, letting that focus bring us calm and clarity. Rather than some meditative approaches that encourage emptying of the mind, we can use our time meditating to fill our thoughts with the truth of the goodness of God.
Bedtime meditation: a beginner’s guide
Getting started with meditation for sleep doesn’t have to be difficult. The first step is to set aside a few minutes, every night, to start practicing the technique.
1. Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit. This could be your bed, a chair in your room or another spot in the house that feels calm.
2. Turn to a favourite scripture that you find encouraging.
3. Read the scripture through, slowly, reminding yourself of the words.
4. If you’re able, then read the scripture again, out loud.
5. Keeping the words of the verse in your mind, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. (Inhale through your nose for four counts. Then hold your breath for seven counts. Exhale through your mouth for eight counts.)
6. If a particular thought or part of the verse stands out for you, allow your focus to remain there. You do not need to force the process. Simply allow the truth of God to settle into your spirit.
Calming scriptures to use in Christian sleep meditation
It’s good to have a few go-to Bible verses to hand to aid you in your mindfulness and meditation for sleep practice.
Proverbs 3:24 “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”
This quotation from Proverbs contains an encouraging promise, of sweet sleep, for us to hold onto during difficult nights. Sleep is God’s gift to us.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
A Psalm For night time meditation
Psalm 121 is one of the most beautiful parts of the Bible, with rich imagery that paints a picture of how much God loves us and how deeply He cares for us. Meditating on this Psalm as you go to bed is a wonderful way of filling your thoughts with the truth of God’s goodness and His promises over your life.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
This Psalm is a great reminder of the ever-present care and watchfulness of God. As you use this scripture as a meditative tool, pull out the different encouraging promises and spend a moment thinking about each one. Promises like: ‘God is my keeper, all day and all night.’ And ‘The Lord watches over my coming and going, every day.’ Whatever I am going through, ‘my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’
Christian mindfulness activities to help you sleep
There’s a host of different mindfulness activities that could help you sleep better at night. From coloring-in to trying a series of restorative stretches, give these tips a try to improve your bedtime routine.
- Try coloring-in. Adult coloring books have gained huge popularity over the last few years, becoming a trend of their own. Mindfulness and coloring go hand in hand as the creative activity helps your body calm down and your brain to focus on just one thing. There are lots of Christian coloring books available too, so you can pray and think about the affirming promises of God while you color.
- Try some gentle movement. Going for an energetic run or doing a hardcore HIIT workout just before bed probably won’t help you sleep. But moving gently through a few restorative stretches could. Gentle exercise is a great way to practice mindfulness as it focuses your brain on the movements your body is making, helping to stem the flow of anxious thoughts.
- Try a breathing exercise. There are a whole range of breathing exercises designed to help you sleep. The 4-7-8 method mentioned earlier is a brilliant one to start with. You can also try the Body Scan Method. This is a simple, mindful technique that can help prepare you for sleep.
Mindfulness and meditation for sleep – how to do the Body Scan Method:
First, get comfortable – lie down if you can. Slow your breathing down and take deep breaths that cause your belly to rise and fall.
Now, focus on your feet and how they feel. Acknowledge any feelings or thoughts that arise and breathe deeply. Visualise any tension in your feet leaving your body as you breathe slowly.
When you feel ready, continue this practice and move up through your body, scanning through every part.
How to mindfully prepare for sleep
As well as practicing mindfulness and meditation for sleep, you can work on creating the optimum sleep environment in your bedroom. Mindfully preparing for sleep involves making adjustments to your sleep space to help encourage a restful night.
Some things you can do to help create a soothing sleep environment include:
Use soft lighting: swap the lighting in your room for soft, warm lighting to help your body unwind in the evening.
Keep your space clear: studies have shown that having a clear, uncluttered space can help you sleep.
Make sure you’re comfortable: choosing comfortable nightwear and bedding may seem obvious but it’s an important part of setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep.
Everyone’s approach to mindfulness and meditation for sleep will be unique. For some just reorganising their sleeping environment will be enough, while others might build up a rich meditation practice that they rely on every night. However you practice mindfulness or meditation, be encouraged that God has promised us His rest and His comfort.