Exploring Meditation: Types, Sleep Benefits, and Getting Started

Exploring Meditation: Types, Sleep Benefits, and Getting Started

Meditation is gaining popularity in the United States, with the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reporting that the use of meditation among adults tripled from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017. But what exactly is meditation, and why are more Americans turning to this practice today?

Understanding Meditation

Meditation generally involves being quiet and contemplative in a specific physical position—sitting, standing, walking, lying down, or holding a yoga pose. The essence of meditation is choosing a focus and maintaining it, allowing thoughts to come and go without attachment or distraction.

Types of Meditation

Here are six popular categories of meditative practices, as outlined by Healthline:

  1. Mindfulness Meditation
    Rooted in Buddhist teachings, this form of meditation involves being aware and acknowledging thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without getting caught up in them. Focusing on physical sensations helps prevent the mind from wandering too deeply.

  2. Spiritual Meditation
    Aimed at connecting the practitioner with their God and the universe, spiritual meditation often uses essential oils and can be practiced at home or in places of worship.

  3. Focused Meditation
    This type involves concentrating on one or more of the five senses, such as breath, smell, or hearing. External stimuli like a flickering flame or counting objects can also be used.

  4. Movement Meditation
    Movement meditation includes activities like yoga, walking, or gardening, where the movement itself becomes a form of meditation.

  5. Mantra Meditation
    Originating from Buddhist and Hindu traditions, this form involves chanting a mantra (e.g., “OM”) to help focus the mind and reduce distractions.

  6. Transcendental Meditation
    This structured form uses Sanskrit words as mantras, assigned based on factors like birth year and gender, and is practiced for 20 minutes twice a day.

Meditation and Sleep

Research suggests that meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, can improve sleep. This practice is popular, simple, and can be done at home, even in bed. It helps manage unruly thoughts that can keep us awake. According to the NCCIH, studies show that meditation-based programs like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia (MBTI) can significantly reduce insomnia severity.

For instance, a 2015 study found that elderly individuals with moderate sleep disturbances showed greater improvement with mindfulness awareness practices compared to those with sleep hygiene education. Additionally, a 2018 study concluded that mindfulness meditation might effectively treat some aspects of sleep disturbance.

Meditation also offers other health benefits that can aid sleep, such as reducing blood pressure, increasing melatonin and serotonin levels, lowering heart rate, and improving mental health.

Tips and Resources

Meditation is a low-cost activity that you can start at home. Here are some resources to help you begin:


  • Spotify: Guided meditation playlists
  • The Cut: Meditation playlist
  • Apple Music and Pandora: Meditation playlists
  • YouTube: Music playlists, guided meditation, and videos


  • Headspace: Offers a free trial and a variety of guided meditations
  • Calm: Popular meditation app with numerous features
  • Simple Habit: Wide range of guided meditations


  • Very Well Mind’s list of meditation podcasts
  • Urban List’s meditation podcast recommendations
  • Tara Brach’s podcast blending psychotherapy and mindfulness

Even if you aren’t ready to invest money into your meditation practice, many companies provide free content to support your journey.

Happy meditating!


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