Many people around the world struggle to get a good night’s sleep. Some have a hard time sinking into slumber as the lights go off and others wake in the middle of the night, unable to drift back to sleep. When we find ourselves in either of these scenarios, we might feel hopeless or drained, unable to give ourselves what we so desire: that is, deep rest.
One technique that we can practice at any time to support ourselves in falling to sleep is the body scan meditation. Many people use a body scan meditation for sleep as a way of calming both mind and body, which helps to create conditions conducive with slumber.
But what is a body scan exercise and how do you do a body scan for sleep? In this comprehensive guide to the power and practice of body scan meditation for sleep, we will explore:
One of the most common mindfulness meditation techniques, a body scan meditation is a practice of bringing curious, non-judgmental awareness to different parts of the physical body. It is called a ‘scan’ because this technique invites us to mentally scan through the body with eyes closed, feeling into our sense of various body parts with an inner lens. Typically, the scan is conducted in a systematic way from head to toes or toes to head. However, some body scan meditations move in a less systematic manner.
While many people use a body scan for sleep, this meditation technique can be used at any time of day – not just before bed. A body scan, just like mindful breathing techniques, is a great practice to incorporate into our daily practice as it strengthens our overall capacity for present moment awareness.
It is also worth noting that body scans differ from progressive muscle relaxation techniques. In the latter, the process includes active tensing of different muscle groups and then releasing this tension. In body scan meditation, we simply draw caring curiosity to our sensory experience of different organs, muscle groups, or parts of the body. There is no active release taking place, although some body scan meditations will include the invitation to gently soften any tension that might be observed.