The app proudly boasts more than 100 million downloads and more than 1.5 million five-star reviews. It features a variety of meditations with some geared especially toward enhancing sleep—although meditation of any kind can be beneficial for overall relaxation.
“Focusing your attention on something in the moment [can be helpful],” says Dr. Guy Meadows, who cofounded Sleep School and its corresponding app, which uses acceptance and commitment therapy to help users sleep. “Aim to notice the rise and fall of each breath moment by moment. Each time your mind wanders onto worry, practice gently returning to focusing on the breath and the present moment. Remember, the intention is not to have an empty mind but rather to train your skills at noticing and letting go of difficult thoughts. Scientific research shows that daily practice 10 minutes per day for eight weeks can quieten down the mind.”
The Honest Guys
There are a number of guided sleep meditations available for free on YouTube. Though using a video platform for your bedtime routine runs counter to Teragawa’s no-screens advice, there is a benefit to using free options, especially for beginners just getting the hang of the practice.
The Honest Guys’ guided sleep meditations come with relaxing stills that rotate periodically, and they even have livestreams available.
While paying a fee can keep you accountable—why pay for something you don’t use?—the trick to keeping on track with free meditations is to develop a routine. In fact, that’s a tip many experts recommend for better sleep overall, with or without guided meditation.
Sleepio’s Dr. Vicki Creanor tells Glamour that if she has to pick one word to describe what makes for good sleep, it would be consistency. In addition to using the guided meditation of your choice, consider structuring your entire day so sleep comes easier.
“Consistency in terms of when you go to bed and when you wake up,” Dr. Creanor says. “Consistency in terms of having the same routine at the same time every night to help your mind learn it’s time to wind down. Consistency in terms of keeping caffeine to the early part of the day and in getting enough exercise. The brain loves routine; it is necessary for it to get into a pattern, and when the mind and body is in a pattern that is predictable, it’s much easier to sleep.”
Dr. Tara Brach
In addition to the aforementioned Calm and Headspace, Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and the founder of NYC Sleep Doctor, recommends Dr. Tara Brach’s online programs. Brach offers free meditations and asks only for donations to keep her content, produced for the Radical Compassion Institute, operational.
Kennedy also warns not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t get the hang of guided meditation for anxiety and sleep: “Meditation is a great way to calm the mind and body. It’s a great way to separate from the intensity of the day before going to bed. I recommend meditating before bed, but not necessarily in bed as a sleep aid. Meditating with the goal of falling asleep can backfire if it doesn’t ‘work,’ leading to more anxiety. The ideal routine would be to meditate and then read fiction as a strategy to engage the mind elsewhere while the body prepares and takes over with sleepiness.”
Aura is an app designed to “transform your well-being, sleep, and life.” It aims to do that with breathwork, psychology, poems, gratitude journaling, life coaching, stories, music, and, of course, meditation.
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