When you just want to turn your brain off and sleep, meditation apps are perfect. A guiding voice, or the sounds of something peaceful such as rain, helps to fill the silence so your thoughts can’t creep in. The best ones strategically bore you into drowsiness. (You can look for sleep-focused meditation tracks, but I’m guilty of misusing the Headspace intro lessons for this purpose.)
But fiddling with your phone in bed is a bad idea. The light hints to your body that it’s daytime, and the minor excitement of playing games or getting mad at tweets keeps your brain humming at precisely the time it should be winding down. But with a few tricks, you can put relaxation on autopilot without holding your phone in your sleep-deprived hands.
Use Wireless Headphones
Your favourite wireless earbuds are your friend here. I have an over-the-ear device I use for phone calls, but I’ll also bring it to bed, and put it on the ear that isn’t smushed against the pillow. Usually I’ll half wake up sometime during the night, notice it’s still on, and switch it off and place it next to my pillow.
There are pitfalls to this approach: One time my earpiece fell out during the night but I forgot to switch it off. I didn’t realise my alarm clock app would then play through the earpiece, so I missed my wake-up time. (Fortunately, the app had a setting to ignore Bluetooth devices, so this only happened once.)
You can also put a Bluetooth speaker by your bed while your phone charges in another room, or keep the phone itself nearby but out of reach. I keep my phone on a dresser that I can’t reach from my bed, with a short charging cable. Play your meditation on the speaker, and you’re all set.
If you prefer meditation tracks from a music app, try setting a sleep timer. (On iPhone, for example, just select “Stop Playing” instead of a sound effect under “When Timer Ends”.)
Ask a Smart Speaker
If you have a device such as an Echo or Google Home in your bedroom, ask it to help you meditate.
Alexa has skills such as Guided Meditation and Meditation Studio, and you can find others by browsing the “Health and Fitness” section. Google has Meditation Sounds and Micro Meditations, among others.
Go Old School
It isn’t that hard to meditate without a guiding voice at all, once you get used to it. As a bonus, you can use these techniques anywhere, even if you’re camping in the middle of nowhere and need to preserve that last 10 per cent of your phone battery. A few meditation-inspired techniques that work:
- Listen to yourself breathing. Count the breaths, if you like.
- Try to recreate a meditation track you’ve enjoyed before, or make up your own.
- Pick one thing, and focus on that thing. A happy image perhaps, or a person you love.
- Do some maths, such as counting backwards by threes or working out the Fibonacci sequence.
- Open your eyes and think about nothing else besides staying awake. Hey, sometimes reverse psychology works.
This article has been updated since its original publication.