Reduce Insomnia with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Dr. Benson recommends practicing mindfulness during the day, ideally for 20 minutes, the same amount suggested in the new study. “The idea is to create a reflex to more easily bring forth a sense of relaxation,” he says. That way, it’s easier to evoke the relaxation response at night when you can’t sleep. In fact, the relaxation response is so, well, relaxing that your daytime practice should be done sitting up or moving (as in yoga or tai chi) so as to avoid nodding off.” – Julie Corliss
Modern society has become more around-the-clock and more complex producing considerable pressure and stress on the individual. The advent of the internet and smart phones has exacerbated the problem. The resultant stress can impair sleep. Indeed, it is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness. Yet over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and about half of these have a chronic disorder. It has been estimated that 30 to 35% of adults have brief symptoms of insomnia, 15 to 20% have a short-term insomnia disorder, and 10% have chronic insomnia
Insomnia is more than just an irritant. Sleep deprivation is associated with decreased alertness and a consequent reduction in performance of even simple tasks, decreased quality of life, increased difficulties with memory and problem solving, increased likelihood of accidental injury including automobile accidents, and increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It also can lead to anxiety about sleep itself. This is stressful and can produce even more anxiety about being able to sleep. About 4% of Americans revert to sleeping pills. But, these do not always produce high quality sleep and can have problematic side effects. So, there is a need to find better methods to treat insomnia. Mindfulness-based practices have been reported to improve sleep amount and quality and help with insomnia. The importance of insomnia underscores the need to further investigate safe and effective alternatives to drugs.
In today’s Research News article “The Quest for Mindful Sleep: A Critical Synthesis of the Impact of Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Insomnia.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300077/, Garland and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effects of mindfulness-based practices on sleep. They identify 6 randomized controlled trials. They report that the literature finds that mindfulness-based practices “reduce insomnia severity and sleep disturbance in healthy individuals, people with chronic disease, and older adults.” The findings appear to
stronger in studies with participants who had diagnosed insomnia or sleep disturbance. So, the more severe the problem, the greater the benefit.
Mindfulness practices are thought to improve sleep and reduce insomnia by a number of mechanisms. Mindfulness appear to reduce levels of physiological and psychological arousal which can interfere with sleep. In addition, mindfulness is known to reduce worry and rumination which can also lead to restlessness and sleep disturbance. Finally, mindfulness may improve sleep as a result of increasing the ability to let go of negative emotions. Regardless of the mechanisms it is clear that mindfulness training may be a useful treatment for insomnia and sleep disturbance.
So, reduce insomnia with mindfulness.
“Given the absence of side effects and the positive potential benefits of mindfulnessthat extend beyond sleep, we encourage people with chronic insomnia, particularly those unable or unwilling to use sleep medications, to consider mindfulness training” – Cynthia Gross
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Garland, S. N., Zhou, E. S., Gonzalez, B. D., & Rodriguez, N. (2016). The Quest for Mindful Sleep: A Critical Synthesis of the Impact of Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Insomnia. Current Sleep Medicine Reports, 2(3), 142–151. http://doi.org/10.1007/s40675-016-0050-3
Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) for insomnia and sleep disturbances are receiving increasing clinical and research attention. This paper provides a critical appraisal of this growing area investigating the application of MBIs for people with insomnia and sleep disturbance. First, we discuss the theoretical justification for how mindfulness meditation practice may affect sleep processes. Second, we provide a focused review of literature published between January 1, 2012 and April 1, 2016 examining the impact of MBIs on sleep, broken down by whether insomnia or sleep disturbance was a primary or secondary outcome. Recommendations for future research are discussed.