24 Healing Options for any Illness

Body Scan Meditation

Meditation can be a great way to relax before bed, and many people find a specific form of meditation known as a "body scan" to be especially helpful. A body scan can last anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes, and, with practice, can become a powerful relaxation technique that can be done any time you want to calm yourself down and reduce anxiety.

The idea behind the body scan is simple. Lie still in bed and focus all of your attention on the sensations you feel in a particular part of your body, typically beginning with the toes and working upward from there. Similar to guided imagery, the main idea is that focusing your attention on this specific task will help prevent your mind from drifting to anxious or distracting thoughts that can interfere with sleep.

Numerous guides with instructions and tips for how to practice body scan meditation are available for free online.

Scientific Studies:

A 2007 study looked at using a combination of meditative practices and insomnia-specific cognitive behavioral therapy to treat insomnia. 30 adults with insomnia participated in a six-week trial that included a variety of non-pharmacological insomnia treatments, such as mindfulness meditation (which included body scans), sleep hygiene, sleep restriction, stimulus control, and sleep education. Thorough evaluations were conducted before and after the trial, and participants were also asked to keep sleep diaries which were assessed weekly. The researchers found significant improvements in insomnia symptoms and reductions in pre-sleep wakefulness and effort needed to fall asleep. These results were correlated with the number of meditation sessions performed. More information about cognitive behavioral therapy can be found in a later section.

The following year, a follow-up study was conducted to see how the treatments had fared in the long-term. Data was gathered at 6 and 12 months post-treatment from sleep diaries and questionnaires. The researchers found that many of the benefits from the treatment were still visible even a full year after the trial.

A 2014 study evaluated the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation (including body scans) as a treatment for insomnia. Those who meditated were found to have lower scores on scales of pre-sleep wakefulness, time spent awake, and general insomnia symptoms than those who did not, suggesting that body scans and other forms of mindfulness meditation could be an effective alternative treatment for adults with chronic insomnia.

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