This Is How Evening Meditations Differ from Daytime Ones
Tired of being overwhelmed with stress after a long day? Sick of staying up all night as your mind swirls non-stop? Whatever the case may be, a nighttime meditation could be just the thing you need to unwind. They're different from daytime meditations, which means they're worth adding to your evening routine even if you already practice this form of self-care in the morning.
Use a nighttime meditation to wind down after a long day.
The purpose of a nighttime meditation is to help you wind down and re-ground yourself after a long day. With that in mind, Sarah McDevitt, the CEO of Core, a handheld guided meditation trainer device, says that a quality evening meditation should take you out of your head and reconnect you to deep belly breath. "Often, the first minutes of a nighttime meditation are when racing thoughts seem the loudest because we've silenced everything else," she says, urging readers to push through it. "Deep breathing, counting breaths, a body scan, muscle relaxation techniques, and mantras are all examples of techniques that can help you move through the busyness of the mind and ease into rest."
There's more to it than simply knowing which meditation techniques to use, though. Brian Femminella, who is the co-founder of SoundMind, a music therapy app that utilizes sound as a tool for improved mental health, notes that creating the right environment for meditation is essential, too. "A good nighttime meditation involves calming ambient noise, darkness, and complete relaxation from the stress of the day," he shares.
Evening meditations should be different than daytime ones.
Bedtime meditations are all about relaxing out of the day's stress and into the night's peace. Though a morning or mid-day practice might also soothe the mind and reduce stress, Kristin McGee a mindfulness and celebrity yoga instructor and Emergen-C ambassador, explains that they tend to be more energizing and geared towards increased focus. "You'll use specific techniques in a nighttime meditation to induce more calm, rather than focus or energy, and they tend to be longer," adds Devon Pipars, one of Core's expert senior instructors. "In the middle of the afternoon, for example, we might use a quick energizing breathing technique or a guided session to reset our mindset or feel more alert—but you wouldn't use the same technique at night." What's more, SoundMind co-founder Travis Chen points out that evening sessions often require less effort. "Nighttime meditations vary from daytime ones because at night, we are trying to unwind from all the thoughts and feelings that we have accumulated throughout the day," he explains. "As a result, we have less energy at night and meditation should be easier as there are fewer distractions."
Duration comes down to preference.
While nighttime meditations tend to be longer than your average daytime iterations, McGee reminds us that there's no one-size-fits-all approach. "The length is truly dependent upon the practitioner," she says. "I listen to a 20-minute meditation with my eight-year-old son every night before he goes to bed. I personally do a five- to 10-minute meditation that seals in my day and helps me rejoice in my positive actions and the seeds I planted before I actually go to sleep. Some need a good 30 minutes, other's doze off in 10 to 15." The reason why meditation experts recommend longer nightly durations? Your body physically needs the time to unwind. "Your nervous system (which is really where the body and mind meet) needs time to settle. The ideal range is 15 to 25 minutes," McGee explains. "Think of it like unplugging a fan. It will take some time for the blades to stop spinning, but with time, they slow and slow until they stop altogether."
Don't discount sleep stories.
Some meditation apps feature sleep stories as a form of unwinding, but is it actually meditation if it makes you nod off? According to Pipars, the answer is yes. "In the pursuit of precious sleep, whatever works for you is worthwhile," she affirms. "We're not too purist about whether we call a story a meditation necessarily. If the goal is to fall asleep, then a soothing soundscape, a story, a guided meditation, or a controlled breathing pattern can all be very effective. And falling asleep during it is wonderful! Many guided meditations can also help your response to stressors that may be affecting more things than sleep—or may help you get a deeper rest throughout the full night."
Here's where to find your nighttime meditations.
Remember: Meditation is not universal in technique or duration, but it is universal in effect. When approached with patience and care, this practice can balance the mind and greatly improve mood, focus, and general life satisfaction. As a bonus, when you close out a day with a nighttime session, it allows you to decompress your mind so that you're lighter as you enter sleep—and even lighter when you arise the next morning. To give it a try for yourself, download the Core and SoundMind apps, and while you're at it, check out Headspace and Calm. All four have sessions that will come in handy at night.