Can Meditation Help You Catch Up On Sleep?

Is meditation the remedy for sleep loss? This article explores how and if we can catch up on sleep and what part meditation plays in good sleep hygiene.
Insight Timer is the top free meditation app on iOS and Android.
can you catch up on sleep
Insight Timer is the top free meditation app on iOS and Android.

Sleep and meditation are both important for recharging the mind and body, but most of us regularly struggle with getting enough rest. Given the overlap in benefits between sleep and meditation, many people wonder if one can replace the other. In this article, we’ll help you understand sleep loss, explore the relationship between sleep and meditation, and answer the burning question: Can you really catch up on sleep by meditating?

Key takeaways

  • Understand the physical and mental health impacts of short-term, long-term, and overnight sleep loss and which disorders could be a factor.
  • Learn why meditation can’t replace sleep but how it can supplement a better night’s rest.
  • Discover why regular meditation practice and sufficient sleep improve your mental well-being, heart health, brain health, hormones, and immune system.

Understanding sleep loss

Getting enough sleep is essential for your body to function — seriously! Sleep can influence the way our brains perform, from memory consolidation to mood regulation, and it plays a big role in our physical health. 

While the exact number of hours may vary from person to person, many of us have heard that seven to eight hours is the sweet spot. But that isn’t always possible. Disruptions to the sleep cycle can happen for many reasons, including:

  • lifestyle factors
  • work schedules
  • sleep disorders
  • …and more. 

We’ll cover common types of sleep loss in detail below.

Short-term sleep loss

Going to bed late a few times a week may not seem like a big deal, but short-term sleep loss sneaks up on us. When we don’t get enough hours of sleep, even for a couple of nights, it can lead to a range of symptoms, including:

  • irritability
  • stress
  • decreased cognitive function
  • impaired memory
  • reduced reaction times
  • weakened immune system

A 2016 study found it takes four days of a complete night’s sleep to fully recover from a loss of just one hour of sleep time. Sleep debt is a deficit that demands to be paid with interest!

Long-term sleep loss

A long-term lack of sleep compounds the effects mentioned above and has a worse impact on both physical and mental health. Prolonged sleep deprivation carries an increased risk of:

It’s worth mentioning that a long-term lack of sleep can be potentially dangerous, especially for those who drive or operate heavy machinery regularly.

If you’ve been battling sleep deprivation, bookmark this playlist with different types of meditations to help you fall asleep quickly and deeply.

Overnight sleep loss

Overnight sleep loss, often experienced by those working night shifts or irregular schedules, can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm and have serious health effects. Even if the amount of sleep is sufficient, the quality of sleep can still be negatively affected. This disruption to the sleep-wake cycle can worsen gastrointestinal issues, increase the risk of obesity, amplify mood disorders, and more.

Sleep disorders

Not all sleep loss is lifestyle or schedule-related. Some people face sleep disorders that can disrupt their ability to attain deep sleep. The most common ones include:

  • Insomnia: characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep despite adequate opportunity for rest
  • Sleep apnea: involves interruptions in breathing during sleep, leading to fragmented sleep and daytime fatigue
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS): causes an irresistible urge to move the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations, making it difficult to fall asleep
  • Narcolepsy: a neurological disorder that causes daytime sleepiness and sudden, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep 

If left untreated, sleep disorders can impact health, productivity, and quality of life. Therefore, early recognition and treatment are crucial for improving sleep and mitigating associated health risks.

healthy sleep habits

Can you catch up on sleep by meditating?

In a fast-paced world where sleep may not come easily, the idea of using meditation as a restorative rest is appealing. But can meditation truly fill the gap? Let’s dive in below!

Meditation instead of sleep

The notion that meditation can replace sleep stems from its calming and relaxing benefits: If meditation can induce relaxing states and promote mental replenishment, it’s not a far reach to assume it can settle our sleep debt.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. While meditation undoubtedly offers numerous benefits for mental and emotional health, there is no outright replacement for sleep. 

Sleep is an essential biological process that our minds and bodies desperately need. It is generally believed that the sleep needs of a person are genetic and can’t be altered. However, research suggests that once our sleep schedule is balanced, those who continue to meditate daily may need less sleep.

Meditation for better sleep

While meditation can’t replace sleep, the two can work in harmony to help you feel refreshed. Even a few minutes of meditation each day proves to be an effective and natural remedy for improving sleep quality. Meditation techniques, such as mindfulness and guided meditation, can:

Enhance your sleep quality with Insight Timer’s extensive collection of guided meditations, relaxing sound baths, mindfulness practices, and more.  

Find guided sleep meditation practices.

Tips for incorporating meditation into your sleep routine

Daily meditation before bed can be as simple as a five-minute mindfulness practice or as intricate as an hour-long guided imagery session. The goal is to incorporate it into your daily routine and ease yourself into a restful night — here are some ways to help you do that:

  • Silence all notifications on your devices at least an hour before you plan to fall asleep.
  • Find or create a cozy, comforting space in your home that feels conducive to relaxation. Try to use that same space to meditate each night.
  • If you’re using a meditation app on your phone, find a form of meditation you enjoy, such as breathing exercises, body scans, or visualization meditation sessions. 
  • Do your meditation practice as close to bedtime as possible. Pair it with soft lighting and a cup of hot herbal tea for an even more soothing effect.

Are you ready for a better night’s rest? Explore Insight Timer’s library of thousands of free guided sleep meditations to drift off into a peaceful slumber.

The benefits of sleep coupled with meditation

Individually, healthy sleep habits and regular meditation have an important impact on aspects of our well-being. The great news? When combined, they optimize the benefits we see in our physical and mental health.

Lower blood pressure

Not getting enough sleep is correlated with high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. 

During deep sleep, our blood pressure decreases, and our heart rate slows down, reducing the workload on the heart. Meditation can have similar effects, contributing to improved heart function over time and reducing the risk of heart disease.  

Enhance immune function 

Our bodies produce cytokines —  proteins that help fight infections and inflammation — during sleep. Without them, we’re more susceptible to illnesses like colds and flu. Sleep also plays an important role in the immune system’s memory, strengthening its ability to respond to future infections. 

Additionally, studies show meditation can reduce stress levels and lower inflammation, which in turn supports a stronger immune response, especially when combined with proper sleep. 

Regulate hormones

When our hormones are out of whack, our bodies fall into disarray. This can manifest as weight gain, impaired metabolism, and high levels of stress. 

Meditation primarily regulates hormones like cortisol (for stress) and melatonin (for sleep), while sleep can impact the production of cortisol along with ghrelin and leptin — the hormones responsible for our hunger cues. With adequate sleep and meditation, we can kick those unpleasant symptoms and ensure we’re in a balanced state.   

Promote a healthy brain

The unprecedented rise of neurodegenerative diseases highlights the importance of taking good care of our brains. The most powerful method of prevention? Sleep! 

Research shows that while sleeping, the brain consolidates memories, processes information, and clears out toxins that accumulate during waking hours. It’s essential for: 

  • cognitive function
  • memory recall
  • decision-making abilities
  • preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia 

Pair sleep with mindfulness meditations, and you can enhance brain function even more, particularly the brain regions associated with attention, memory, and emotional regulation. 

Improve mental health

It’s no secret that being tired can increase irritability, but chronic sleep loss can also exacerbate mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Conversely, getting a good night’s sleep is a strong predictor of happiness. Incorporating meditation into your nighttime routine can help you get that restful, deep sleep you’ve been looking for while regulating your nervous system and decreasing anxious and depressive symptoms.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) 

Can regular meditation improve the quality of my sleep?

Yes! Regular meditation can reduce stress, tension in the body, and mental clutter, all of which hinder sleep. The physical and mental relaxation from meditation creates a peaceful transition into sleep and supports staying asleep longer. 

What is yoga nidra?

Yoga nidra, often referred to as “yogic sleep,” is a practice that guides practitioners into a meditative state while maintaining full awareness. During a typical yoga nidra session, individuals lie in a comfortable position and follow verbal instructions from a teacher or recording. The practice typically involves consciously observing different parts of the body, breath awareness, and visualization.

When should you do yoga nidra for better sleep?

Yoga nidra is best practiced in the evening, preferably before bedtime, to prepare for restorative sleep. This can help you calm the mind, release tension, and unwind. 

Does meditation count if you fall asleep?

Yes! If you fall asleep during meditation, it typically means you’ve reached a state of deep relaxation. While the primary goal of meditation is to work on mindfulness and awareness, falling asleep occasionally is not uncommon, especially if you’re practicing at the end of the day.


Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2012). Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archiv : European journal of physiology, 463(1), 121–137. 

Black, D. S., & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1), 13–24. 

Eugene, A. R., & Masiak, J. (2015). The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep. MEDtube science, 3(1), 35–40.  

Kaul, P., Passafiume, J., Sargent, C. R., & O’Hara, B. F. (2010). Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance, and may decrease sleep need. Behavioral and brain functions : BBF, 6, 47. 

Kitamura, S., Katayose, Y., Nakazaki, K., Motomura, Y., Oba, K., Katsunuma, R., Terasawa, Y., Enomoto, M., Moriguchi, Y., Hida, A., & Mishima, K. (2016). Estimating individual optimal sleep duration and potential sleep debt. Scientific reports, 6, 35812.  

Nagai, M., Hoshide, S., & Kario, K. (2010). Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease- a review of the recent literature. Current cardiology reviews, 6(1), 54–61. 

Ray, I. B., Menezes, A. R., Malur, P., Hiltbold, A. E., Reilly, J. P., & Lavie, C. J. (2014). Meditation and coronary heart disease: a review of the current clinical evidence. Ochsner journal, 14(4), 696–703.  

Rusch, H. L., Rosario, M., Levison, L. M., Olivera, A., Livingston, W. S., Wu, T., & Gill, J. M. (2019). The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1445(1), 5–16. 

Shin, J. E., & Kim, J. K. (2018). How a Good Sleep Predicts Life Satisfaction: The Role of Zero-Sum Beliefs About Happiness. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1589.

Meditation. Free.