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Mindfulness Meditation May Relieve Your Sleep Problems

Older adults who have sleep problems may find some relief from mindfulness meditation, according to a new study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine. Are you willing to try meditation if you are having sleep difficulties?


Sleep problems are a major health challenge, especially among the aging population. According to the new study’s head researcher, David S. Black, PhD, MPH, of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, about half of adults 55 years and older suffer with some type of sleep issue.

The 49 participants (average age, 66) in this study experienced moderate sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Consequences of these sleep difficulties can include depressive symptoms, fatigue, moodiness, and reduced quality of life.

Twenty-four of the volunteers participated in mindful awareness practices (MAPs) which involved weekly two-hour sessions for six sessions taught by a certified teacher. The other 25 volunteers were assigned to Sleep Hygiene Education (SHE) sessions.

During the MAP sessions, the adults practiced various types of mindful meditation, eating, walking, and movement and received educational instruction on mindful meditation. All the participants also were given a book on mindfulness, a guided meditation disc, and instructions for daily homework practice that started at 5 minutes daily and increased to 20 minutes by the end of the study.

The adults in the SHE group also attended weekly, two-hour sessions for six weeks. Their sessions included instructions by a qualified instructor on sleep hygiene, sleep problems, stress reduction and biology, self-monitoring of sleep behaviors, and homework assignments that included practicing what they learned and weekly reading.

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Participants in both groups were tested using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, as well as standard tests for anxiety, fatigue, depression, insomnia, and stress. Here’s what the investigators found:

  • Compared with adults in the SHE group, those in the mindful meditation group showed improvements in the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index as well in fatigue severity, insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, and fatigue interference.
  • There were no differences between the groups when it came to anxiety or stress
  • Nuclear factor (NF)-kB concentrations declined significantly in both groups. Activation of NF-kB in peripheral blood mononuclear cells is a precursor to rising concentrations of inflammatory markers, and sleep disruption causes activation of NF-kB.

The study’s authors concluded that “mindfulness meditation appears to have a role in addressing the prevalent burden of sleep problems among older adults by remediating their moderate sleep disturbances and deficits in daytime functioning.”

Although further research in the role of mindfulness meditation in sleep problems is needed, this treatment approach offers some attractive benefits and advantages that may make it worth trying right now. For example, it has no side effects, it’s free (or minimal cost if you desire professional instruction or purchase materials), it can be done at home, and it does not involve drugs.

Other research has shown that mindfulness meditation is helpful for managing issues that typically relate to sleep issues, such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and stress. Could mindfulness meditation help your sleep problems?

Also read: How mindfulness meditation changes your brain
Clouds and meditation

Black DS et al. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances. A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine 2015; 175(4): doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081

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