Different types of sleep meditation
There isn’t one single way to practice sleep meditation.
Instead, a handful of mindfulness practices can be used to help focus and relax the body, easing away the stresses of the day and helping the meditator achieve a more restful state for perfect sleep. 💤
Some of the most common types of sleep meditation include:
- Affirmations and visualisations
- ASMR sounds
- Guided meditations
- Bedtime stories
- Binaural beats
- Body scans
- Delta waves
- Mantra meditations
- Music and soundtracks
All of these aim to switch off our monkey brains, focus on the present moment, deepen our breathing, and allow the body to relax for better sleep. 🐒
But do you need to meditate to sleep?
The best sleep meditation apps
We’re not all master meditators, and many of us need some guidance when it comes to accessing the right techniques.
This is one of the many reasons meditation apps have become such popular sleep aids. 📱
They offer guided relief to help ease stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
While there may be some downsides to using an app, which we’ll discuss further down, meditation apps are perfect for beginners and people who benefit from pre-recorded and curated content.
Pre-recorded and curated content is much more approachable than, for example, silent meditation or transcendental meditation, where you're fully reliant on yourself and the practices you've learnt.
Having a meditation teacher or recorded sounds by your side via an app makes meditation much easier to get into.
Below, we’ll consider some of the best meditation apps that have a specific focus on sleep.
- Why choose Aura: Wide range of content with customisable options
- Trial: 7-day free trial
- Membership costs: Choose a monthly (roughly £5) or annual (roughly £60) membership
Aura is an award-winning all-in-one app for sleep and well-being that personalises a user’s experience with a custom quiz on sign-up.
The quiz allows users to define:
- Their primary purpose for using the app (reducing stress, sleeping better, healing, mindfulness, etc.)
- Why these goals are important (to feel more rested, to have a healthier response to stress, to improve emotional health, etc.)
- What type of content the user is interested in (prayer, cognitive behaviour therapy, hypnosis, ASMR, breathwork, etc.)
- What accent the user prefers (American, British, Australian, Irish, Indian, or more)
- What length of tracks the user prefers (short, medium, long, or all)
Users can still access a full range of content and filter from within the app, but Aura will customise the experience according to preferences.
App content is not free to access, but users can make use of a 7-day free trial before signing up for an annual subscription. 🗓
BetterSleep (formerly Relax Melodies)
- Why choose BetterSleep: Specifically designed for sleep
- Trial: 7-day free trial (not available on monthly subscription)
- Membership costs: Choose a monthly (roughly £10), annual (roughly £60), or lifetime (roughly £250) membership
Unlike many of the other meditation apps that offer a range of content, BetterSleep has been specifically designed to enhance sleep.
It features a library of sleep sounds, white noise tracks, relaxing music, guided meditations for sleep, hypnosis, bedtime stories, and breathing exercises.
Users even have the option of recording their sleep to pick up sounds that may disrupt the quality of their sleep.
This may pick up irregular sleep patterns or sleep disorders that need medical intervention.
Like other meditation apps, BetterSleep asks new users what their primary goals are. ✅
But, all options are distinctly sleep-related and include goals like falling asleep faster, sleeping all night, relaxing, managing tinnitus, helping kids sleep better, enhancing focus, and ensuring better mornings.
BetterSleep also has the option of activating a timer that will automatically switch the app off after a certain period, making it ideal for falling asleep.
After a 7-day free trial, users can opt for a monthly or annual subscription.
- Why choose Calm: Popular app with a variety of meditations
- Trial: 7-day free trial
- Membership costs: Choose an annual (roughly £40) or lifetime (roughly £400) membership
Calm is one of the most popular paid-for meditation apps, combining a variety of guided meditations, music, soundscapes, sleep stories, movement tracks, and mood trackers.
During the initial setup, new users can select a variety of reasons for accessing Calm, including sleep, stress or anxiety, learning to meditate, and personal growth.
But all content can be accessed within the app itself.
Calm is free to download and comes with a 7-day free trial, after which users can sign up for an annual membership.
- Why choose Headspace: Specifically designed to teach mindfulness to beginners
- Trial: 7-day free trial (for a monthly subscription) or 14-day free trial (for an annual subscription)
- Membership costs: Choose a monthly (roughly £13), annual (roughly £70), or family (roughly £100 for 6 users) membership
Headspace is best known for teaching mindfulness and the art of meditation, but it also offers a library of guided meditations, sleepcasts, music, and sounds.
The app is science-backed, and, according to a Headspace study, just 10 days of using Headspace can increase overall happiness by 16%.
During setup, Headspace will ask whether new users are looking to be more present and mindful, sleep better, manage anxiety, reduce stress, or feel more calm and relaxed.
But, all app content can be accessed by everyone, and users can choose by topic (including meditation, sleeping, and movement) or settle for a daily recommendation. 👍
Headspace is free to download and comes with a 7-day trial, followed by a monthly membership, or a 14-day trial, followed by an annual membership.
- Why choose Insight Timer: World's largest free meditation app
- Trial: N/A
- Membership costs: Free to use, but there is a premium version for roughly £10 monthly or £60 annually
Insight Timer is one of the largest free meditation libraries in the world, making thousands of audio tracks available for users worldwide. 🌎
In addition to guided meditations, the app also features meditation timers, courses, live events, workshops, playlists, and stories.
The audio library is also brilliantly divided into a number of categories, such as anxiety, healing, yoga, and sleep.
Within the sleep category, Insight Timer offers sleep music, soundscapes, bedtime tales, guided deep sleep meditations, and sleep for parents, which can be further filtered down by the narrator and length of audio.
Conveniently, users can also follow meditation teachers, bookmark favourite tracks, read quotes, track their moods, and engage with a worldwide community of fellow meditators.
Insight Timer is completely free to download and use, though there is the option of subscribing to premium content and accessing paid-for courses.
- Why choose Pzizz: Sounds, music, or narration designed for sleep, nap, and focus times
- Trial: N/A
- Membership costs: Free to use, but the full library is only available on a monthly (roughly £8) or annual (roughly £50) membership
Pzizz is a sleep app that’s quite different to the standard sleep mediation apps.
Upon opening the app, users can select one of three modes - sleep, nap, and focus.
Depending on the mode selected, the app will combine a playlist of sounds, narration, and relaxing music to help users sleep, nap, or focus. 💤
Users have the option of selecting the soundscape (the background music) they prefer and the narration they’d prefer, but they also have the option of switching off one or the other.
Conveniently, users can also set an alarm for the next morning, ensuring they’re woken in a gentle way, and have the option of amending the timer for how long the meditation plays before switching off automatically.
The app is free to use, but access to the full library of sounds and narrations is only given with the purchase of monthly or yearly memberships.
Best practices when using guided sleep meditations
Using guided meditation for sleep might seem like the opposite of what you should be doing, considering the dominant advice to minimise the use of devices before bedtime and remove electronics from the bedroom.
To work around this, you may want to engage in a regular meditation practice that doesn’t revolve around bedtime.
As we’ve seen above, regular meditation does have a positive effect on overall sleep quality.
Alternatively, you may also wish to focus on breathwork or mantra meditations, which you can learn once and then turn to again and again.
However, sleep meditation apps have been specifically designed to be used in bed to help you sleep better, and there are a few things you can do to have a better experience:
- Many sleep meditation apps work best with headphones, but you can also listen to the apps on speaker.
- If you don’t want to use headphones, placing your mobile phone underneath your pillow will result in a better audio experience.
- We’d recommend opting for premium accounts where you can download meditations ahead of time, giving you the option of putting your phone on aeroplane mode and then listening to the offline download.
- Switching your phone to dark mode and adding a blue light filter will take some of the strain off your eyes.
- Many meditation apps come with timers, so you can set the duration of the track you want to listen to ahead of time. The app will then switch off automatically.
There is no best way to meditate.
Experimenting with different types of tracks and durations is the best way to figure out what works for you.
Should you try sleep meditation?
If you’ve had trouble sleeping, then trying a sleep meditation is a great idea.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate, and thousands of sleep meditations are available by looking at apps or social platforms like YouTube.
Give the ones we’ve recommended a go, and see which work best for you.