How can you use meditation & mindfulness to improve your sleep and overall brain performance?
The terms meditation and mindfulness frequently get used interchangeably, but is there a difference?
Today, I’m excited to have neuroscientist Ariel Garten back on the show to dive deeper into this topic. She’s the founder of Muse, the revolutionary and award-winning brain-sensing headband technology that makes meditation easy and effective.
Listen in as Ariel goes on a deep dive into how meditation, mindfulness, and sleep effect the brain. If you’ve ever wondered how meditation works to improve brain performance from a neurological & scientific perspective, this episode is for you.
I’m also excited to invite you to a unique opportunity just for our Kwik Brain listeners. Go to www.jimkwik.com/muse and get your device before December 31. Not only will you get an amazing discount, but you also get invited to an exclusive live one-hour webinar session with Ariel and me. We’ll answer all your burning questions about sleep, meditation, and brain health so you can optimize your life in the New Year.
How Meditation Enhances Mindfulness
- The terms meditation and mindfulness are frequently used interchangeably, but there is a difference.
- Meditation is a practice or training that leads to healthy and positive mind states.
- It’s an active thing you do regularly to improve your mind and your brain.
- But there are subset forms of meditation like zen meditation, walking meditation, and focused-attention meditation that improve your mindfulness.
- Mindfulness is the ability to pay moment by moment attention to your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment.
- When you practice meditation forms like focused attention meditation or walking meditation, you are increasing your mindfulness.
- You're improving your ability to be mindful about your state of mind, actions, and life.
- When you meditate, your brain is making real structural change.
- In a Harvard University study, Dr. Sarah Lazar demonstrated that long-term meditators have an increased prefrontal cortex thickness.
- Your prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that governs your higher-order processing.
- It’s where you plan, organize, and make decisions.
- The bad news is that as you age, your prefrontal cortex thins.
- The good news is if you’re able to maintain a long-term practice, you can maintain the thickness of your prefrontal cortex—even as you age.
- Meditation downregulates your amygdala.
- It increases the connections between your corpus callosum, which is the area between your left and right brain hemispheres.
- And it maintains or increases the size of your hippocampus, which is the area of your brain associated with learning and memory.
- A short meditation intervention of eight weeks has demonstrated an increase in the volume of your gray matter, or the number of connections that you actually have in your brain.
- That’s some of the cool stuff meditation does to your brain.
The Neuroscience Of Meditation
- Now let’s get into why meditation does this.
- There are two areas of your brain to look at: the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
- The amygdala is the part of your brain that is always scanning for danger. It’s always looking for things that might be wrong.
- The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that tells your amygdala that everything is fine.
- When you do long-term meditation practice, what you’re doing is strengthening your prefrontal cortex and your ability to rise above a situation.
- It’s called metacognition.
- When you practice meditation, you’re practicing looking around in order to make a better decision.
- This actually downregulates your amygdala.
- There’s research that demonstrates people who practice meditation long-term actually have an increased number of productions from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala.
- That means the prefrontal cortex is better able to downregulate the amygdala and calm it down more effectively.
- That’s why when you practice meditation, you feel calmer. You’re not as flustered, you’re not in fight-or-flight, you’re not anxious.
- You’re able to make decisions that aren’t impacted by the emotions you’re having in that moment.
- You can rise above situations and gain perspective.
Using Technology To Meditate
- Sometimes meditation can feel intimidating, or you might feel like you're not doing it right.
- That doubt can keep you from being mindful in the moment.
- One of the benefits of the Muse is it tells you your meditation results right away.
- There are thousands of researchers that use Muse, and hundreds of studies that have been published with data from it.
- The Mayo Clinic recently did a study with breast cancer patients using Muse to overcome their cancer care process.
- They found that it reduced their stress, improved their quality of life, and reduced fatigue.
- And now it can be used to help you sleep.
- The newest model, the Muse S, is an incredible sleep tracker. It’s actually a clinical grade EEG in your bed.
- It’s literally what they use in a sleep lab, so you’re getting your sleep tracked as effectively as you would in a clinical setting.
- It enables you to see each of the stages of sleep so you can track not just how much deep sleep you had, but the intensity of your deep sleep.
- In other words, you can see the quality of your sleep.
- On top of that, there are built-in sleep interventions to help you fall asleep.
- Because Muse is able to track your level of wakefulness as you’re falling asleep, it can bring in specific bioneurofeedback interventions that help you fall asleep.
- You can listen to a sleep story or guided content that’s actually built from your body that’s training you to sleep.
- As the system starts to notice you moving into stage one sleep, hypnagogic sleep, your alpha waves drop and your delta waves increase.
- Muse changes the content of the audio to further cue your brain to fall asleep.
- In a recent study, Dr. Adrian Owen showed that using Muse led to a 20% improvement in sleep quality, which is a tremendous outcome.
- Meditation can dramatically help you improve your sleep. And then the interventions built into Muse extend beyond meditation.
- They call it the digital sleeping pill because it adds an even deeper layer in helping your brain quiet down and transition to sleep.
- Another incredibly cool feature is because you’re wearing Muse throughout the night and it’s tracking your sleep with its clinical grade EEG, if you wake up in the middle of the night, it will bring back the same intervention that helped you fall asleep.
- That means it will automatically walk your brain back to sleep.
- It’s an intelligent wearable.
Using Meditation To Improve Sleep
- When you close your eyes, something called alpha block comes in and you see an increase in your alpha wave activity.
- As you move into stage one sleep, you see a drop in alpha waves and delta waves start increasing. This is phase one sleep.
- Phase one sleep is super light sleep. You can be easily woken up and not feel like you were asleep.
- But one really cool thing happening in phase one sleep is hypnagogia.
- You start to have all of these images come into your mind, and it can feel really trippy or psychedelic.
- You’re losing your grip on consciousness and reality.
- From hypnagogia, you move into stage two sleep, which is proper deep sleep.
- It starts with your sleep spindles and K-complexes.
- K-complexes keep your brain quiet, even if there’s activity outside.
- One way you can bring yourself into hypnagogia is by bringing in imagery.
- That’s part of how the sleep experience with Muse works. It uses guided visualizations to bring you into the hypnagogic state.
- Even if you don’t have technological support, if you’re trying to go to sleep, just start to visualize images.
- Make them weird and trippy. Things like a lion on top of a soda doing a pirouette.
- The more vivid and strange the images, the better they will facilitate moving into hypnagogia and then into phase two sleep.
- When it comes to difficulty sleeping, there’s a really virtuous loop between meditation and sleep.
- When you meditate, you learn to quiet your anxiety and quiet your mind, which then facilitates sleep.
- One of the biggest obstacles to falling asleep is having anxiety about whether you can go to sleep.
- When you lie in bed at night, don’t worry about whether you’re going to sleep or not, try not to think about how your day will be tomorrow with or without sleep.
- Just allow yourself to be there and enjoy being in bed.
- Close your eyes and meditate by lying with warm, good feelings. Enjoy the coziness of your bed and eventually sleep will come.
- When you worry about whether or not you’re going to fall asleep, the worry itself is what robs you of sleep.
- Instead, focus on the good, relaxing, enjoyable feelings and you’ll fall asleep.
- There's nothing better for your brain performance than resting and restoring with better sleep.
- Even superheroes like Batman and Ironman have tools and technology to enhance their abilities. Now you can be aware of and have access to this incredible tool.
- Be sure to check out the unedited, extended episode on YouTube, here.
Share With Us
- Take a screenshot and tag us on social media (@choosemuse & @JimKwik).
- Be sure to visit www.jimkwik.com/muse and take advantage of our special holiday offer.
- If you get your device before December 31, you not only get an amazing discount, you get invited to an exclusive one-hour webinar session with Ariel and me.
- During this unique masterclass, we'll answer all your burning questions about sleep, meditation, and brain health so you can optimize your life in the New Year.
- Let's become Limitless together.