Scientific insight into the effects of meditation.
Look around. Every animal on this planet must sleep. We spent one-third of our lives in an unresponsive state and for what? If you were a computer, then you would run an antivirus, update, and defragmentation program.
What we do every night is so astonishing, that this shortlist can’t do it justice by far:
- We regenerate on a cellular and tissue level (growth hormones, cell repair, muscle repair…)
- Glucose regulation, and cortisol levels are influenced (Stress, energy-level & eating habits)
- The selecting & storing of memories
- The processing of emotions
- Learning, maturation as well as creativity are boosted
If you also love science, you will enjoy the next bullet points, which explain you how meditation improves your sleep:
1. LOWER CORTISOL LEVELS
Meditation decreases Cortisol levels (1) Cortisol and Melatonin are in an opposite relationship. While high Melatonin levels make you sleepy, Cortisol concentrations are increasing naturally in the early morning hours to wake you up. But, when you are experiencing stress, additional Cortisol is released and you will have a hard time either falling asleep or sleeping through the night.
2. DECIDE WHAT THOUGHTS YOU ENHANCE
What you think in your last hours before going to bed is important, because “all things you learned before sleeping are generally enhanced the next day”. Studies have shown that learning either motor or cognitive skills before going to bed, led to a significant improvement of that skill, in comparison to a non-sleeping control group. (2)
3. MEDITATION EMPOWERS YOU TO MAKE GOOD CHOICES – TURN OFF THE LIGHT
Through Meditation, we practice our awareness. A, therefore, heightened cognitive reflection promotes reflective judgment rather than habitual responding. After meditating, the chances stand high that you make a healthy decision.(3) Healthy, like turning off the phone or reading a book instead of Netflixing. Why? Because LED light fucks up your circadian rhythm: A study has compared 2 groups of people reading at night, one group using an iPad, the other a conventional book. The study showed that melatonin levels decreased when using the iPad by 50%. Those poor individuals felt drowned and missed a good portion of their REM sleep (a phase where you process your emotions). (2)
4. MEDITATION LOOKS ALREADY LIKE SLEEP
During Meditation mostly 2 types of waveforms were measured. Alpha & Theta Waves.
Alpha waves are abundant in the back part of the brain and they can be seen as a sign of rest, without the mind being void. They might be related to the spontaneous wandering of the mind you experience while meditating. These excursions of the mind probably represent a kind of mental processing: Connecting experiences and emotional residues, putting things into perspective, and allowing them to rest. (4)
Meditation shares some functions with sleep and this might be an indication that Meditation is evening out the ground for processes during sleep.
The second wave-form we see in Meditation is the Theta Wave. Theta waves are abundant in very deep Meditation inside the front and middle part of the brain. They indicate the monitoring of mental processes and occur naturally during light sleep. Looking at the graphic we have to admit, that especially, Theta-Waves look fairly close to “deep sleeping” delta-waves. No wonder, that more than once during class, someone’s soft snoring has turned the Meditation practice into a practice of patience.
And you know what? I think it is totally fine to allow yourself to sleep, even during Meditation. If your body is so exhausted that, granted a tiny bit of relaxation he instantly falls asleep, then, he needs it. Meditate another time. 😊
What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment and honest feedback.
- Mathew Walker: Why we sleep. (Chapter 6) >> Love this book!