Some people have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep at night. Some of us tend to snore, which can wake up a partner. Some of us however experience something a little bit more frightening: difficulty breathing while we are trying to nod off. Today I’m going to talk about meditation for sleep apnea and how it can help prevent these difficulties breathing and waking up several times a night.
There are 2 types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when your throat muscles relax and there is an upper airway obstruction. This is the most common form. The less common one is called central sleep apnea, and this occurs when your brain isn’t correctly regulating signals sent to your muscles to control steady breathing properly.
Central sleep apnea is generally more serious and can be caused be heart failure or stroke, or even sleeping at high altitude. Treating central sleep apnea is usually about fixing the underlying condition with assisted breathing apparatus or supplemental oxygen.
Consult your doctor first, whichever type of sleep apnea you have, before moving on to meditation or other exercises for yourself.
Simple Meditation for Sleep Apnea
So how can meditation help with sleep apnea?
Meditation is primarily a relaxation method. It can help us focus the mind and regulate our breathing, which are the primary concerns if you have sleep apnea and cannot get to and stay asleep.
The more relaxed your mind and body are as you prepare to sleep, the better your chances are of falling into a deep, restful sleep.
Here are 3 meditation methods to help with your sleep apnea:
1. Breathing-Focused Meditation.
First, find a nice, quiet space and sit on a cushion on the floor. Close your eyes, put your hands in your lap and relax your body. Concentrate on breathing through your nose, and start counting your breaths up to 10. Continue counting them in groups of 10 until you feel relaxed. The objective here is to empty your mind and focus only on the counting. Discard any external thoughts that enter your brain, focusing on your breathing.
When you have completed the exercise, slowly let yourself become aware of your body once more and stand up. It’s important to stretch your muscles at this point, and you can begin to get back to your daily routine.
2. Focal Point (Visual or Mantra).
Similar to using your breathing, you can instead decide to focus on a visual point of reference to focus your mind. This can perhaps take more practice to become proficient at, but it becomes easier. Again, the idea is to rid your mind of the swirl of thoughts that permeate it.
A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat over and over, either in your head or out loud to focus on the meditation. This again helps you focus and set free any distracting thoughts.
3. Guided Imagery.
You can use pre-recorded imagery and audio to guide you through the meditation. It often starts with some simple breathing exercises, and then the recording will guide you through various scenes to bring your imagination to a peaceful place. This could be considered a form of hypnosis so make sure you are comfortable with that, and make sure to do it in a quiet, dimly lit room for best results.
Preparing to Sleep After Meditation
You can perform these meditation rituals at any time and as regularly as you like. It can help to do them shortly before bed as this puts your mind in a state of relaxation, which is beneficial for your breathing if you have sleep apnea.
When you get into bed, you should be in a deep, relaxed state of mind. Lie down and breathe deeply through your nose and feel the air moving through your stomach. Count 4 beats for your inhale. Then exhale slowly, and count the beats up to 8. Repeat this several times until your body is in a deep state of relaxation.
Let go of all your stress and worries of the day. With eyes closed, concentrate on all the parts of your body. Release the tension from the top of your head, slowly moving down all the way to the tips of your toes. Always concentrate on the breathing, deeply and slowly. It’s okay to let your daily concerns go; they are for tomorrow.