Is it bad to meditate before going to bed? Some meditators firmly think so. They are so passionate about it that one gets the impression that late-night meditation comes at a considerable cost. But precisely, what is the problem with meditating before bedtime? What are the consequences we might suffer, and are these fears justified? Let’s have a thorough look.
Reasons not to meditate before going to sleep
There are several reasons some meditators raise concerns about late evening practice. Their arguments have some legitimacy; however, they are also incoherent and contradictory and don’t apply to everyone. Whether they apply to you and your meditation practise depends.
Let’s discuss the most frequent arguments one by one.
-You could easily fall asleep if you meditate before bedtime
Claim: The problem with meditating before bedtime is that you are tired in the evening. Thus you could easily fall asleep during your practice.
If you are overly tired in the evening, that could be a valid reason not to meditate before going to bed. The same would be true if you are typically sleepy at some other time of the day. People are different. Because of differences in our biological rhythms, some are alert and full of energy in the evening, while others get slow and sleepy. We can’t apply this argument indiscriminately to everyone.
And there is more to consider.
Having digested your last meal is essential for meditation, and in the evening, digestion is slower. That means that you need to wait at least for a couple of hours after dinner before meditating. The longer you wait, the more you have time to digest. In this regard, it is an advantage to wait until right before bedtime.
Most meditators, including myself, get good meditations late in the evening. However, if I meditate too soon after dinner, my meditation is usually a pretty sleepy experience.
-You risk associating meditation with sleep
Claim: By repeatedly meditating right before going to sleep, you will condition your mind to associate meditation with sleep. That could turn your meditation into a gateway to sleep rather than a practice to develop awareness.
I am sceptical about this one. If you explicitly and repeatedly use meditation to fall asleep, maybe there could be something to this concern. But suppose you don’t have any problem falling asleep during your meditation, and you sleep well afterwards. In that case, there is no need to worry.
If falling asleep is a problem for you, I suggest you read my post on how to stay awake while meditating.
-You run the risk of getting too much energy
Claim: The problem with meditating before bedtime is that it makes you alert and energetic. Thus, it makes it hard for you to fall asleep and reduce sleep quality.
Not only can meditation make you fall asleep. It can also give you an abundance of energy. If you get so much energy that you have a hard time calming down afterwards, that could be a contraindication for meditating before bedtime.
However, if you get too much energy or not depend on what technique you use. It also depends on you and on how you handle the surplus force. Some meditators say that by going straight to bed after practice, sleep comes easily. On the other hand, if you start an intellectual activity, especially in front of a screen, then falling asleep can become challenging.
As always, find out what works for you. And remember, whether or not you meditate before going to sleep is not the only factor that impacts sleep quality. If your sleep hygiene could do with some improvement have a look at this guide at WikiHow.
-You could get agitated and nervous
Claim: Meditation opens the gates to your subconscious. That means that uncomfortable subconscious material could spill over into your conscious mind. That, in turn, could make you nervous and agitated and reduce sleep quality.
Bringing unconscious tensions to the surface is a good thing because it allows you to deal with them consciously. Nevertheless, if it becomes hard for you to sleep, practising late in the evening could be undesirable.
However, it might also be a question of using a different technique. If the evening is a time that fits your schedule, experiment with other ways of meditating rather than abandoning this timeslot.
Issues with meditating before bedtime can be solved by changing method
When people talk about meditation, they most often refer to open awareness meditation or mindfulness. Generally, this style will be beneficial no matter the time of the day you practice. Nevertheless, there are many different ways to meditate, and other techniques have different impacts. If you have a problem with meditating before bedtime, try one of the following methods.
Concentration based meditation
Many people appreciate concentration-based meditations such as tratak or nada yoga for late in the evening. They say such techniques give good sleep and clear dreams. A concentration-based meditation is a technique in which your main focus is to stay with a decided meditation object, ignoring any distractions to the best of your ability.
Another meditative practice that can be a good choice in the evening is yoga nidra. It is a meditative deep-relaxation technique that we use a lot in the Satyananda tradition. Yoga nidra is efficient at activating the parasympathetic nervous system bringing your whole organism into restoration mode.
Calm yoga poses
A quiet practice of yoga poses before bedtime is another excellent way to slow down. It can be perfect if you have a lot of thoughts turning in your mind. Practising body awareness in poses that you hold in motionlessness for several minutes will bring you out of your head and make you reconnect with your body. That will calm you down, resulting in better sleep better.
Pranayamas are yogic breathing exercises. They are not strictly speaking meditation though there is an element of it involved. Pranayama has a substantial impact on your nervous system, and I find it to be a great way to end the day.
Ujjayi based meditations
Some meditations build on a breathing technique called Ujjayi pranayama. These are practices like the Source of Energy meditation, Satyananda Ajapa Japa and Kriya Yoga, and such practices raise your energy considerably. These meditations are not a good choice for everyone in the evening. Long sessions of high energy practice before bedtime could make you active afterwards and even give you strange and uncomfortable dreams. But again, you have to see for yourself how it works out for you.
Good reasons to meditate before bedtime
In this article, I explore the problems with meditating before bedtime. I do that because many meditators think there is a problem. Although it could be true for some, meditating before going to sleep is excellent in most cases. Meditation decreases stress hormones, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and will generally make you ready for a night of calm sleep. Taking the time to alter your mental state before going to bed makes rest more efficient, and you will need less sleep.
So what is the problem with meditating before bedtime? The answer is that there is no general problem that applies to everyone. If there is a problem at all depend on you and the technique you practice. In case you are happy with your late evening meditations and how you sleep afterwards, there is no need to worry. Should you run into issues, make adjustments and find out what works for you.