Improve Stress, Sleep, and Memory with Mindfulness

Improve Stress, Sleep, and Memory with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Meditation trains you to be mindful of your incoming thoughts, weakening both the physiological link and strength that each thought has on you, as well as decreasing the frequency of incoming sleep-preventing thoughts. Meditation forces the worrywart, insomnia causing mind to shift into the present moment, while realizing that the day is now over, and tomorrow is not yet here.” – EOC Institute


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. Over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and about half of these have a chronic disorder. It has been estimated that about 4% of Americans revert to sleeping pills. But, these do not always produce high quality sleep and can have problematic side effects. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness and can even lead to memory problems. So, there is a need to find better methods to improve sleep. Mindfulness-based practices have been reported to improve sleep amount and quality, reduce stress and improve memory. It is not known, however, how these effects of mindfulness are related.


In today’s Research News article “Dispositional Mindfulness and Memory Problems: The Role of Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Brisbon and Lachman measured adult participants in the Boston Longitudinal Study for mindfulness, perceived stress, sleep quality, memory problems, physical health, openness, and neuroticism. The relationships between these measured were then explored with a regression analysis.


They found that stress was a key, with higher levels of perceived stress associated with poorer sleep quality and greater memory problems and neuroticism. Mindfulness was only slightly associated with lower perceived stress and neuroticism and greater openness and no significant relationship with sleep quality. A mediation analysis revealed that mindfulness was associated with lower memory problems indirectly by being associated with lower perceived stress which was associated with memory problems. Hence, high mindfulness was related to lower perceived stress which was, in turn, related to memory problems.


It should be kept in mind that the preset study was correlational and no conclusions about causation can be reached. But, these results suggest that stress is a key factor in sleep and memory problems and that mindfulness, by being associated with lower stress, is related to improved memory. It remains for future research to manipulate mindfulness and thereby determine if there are causal connections. But, given the increased memory problems associated with aging, it would be important to establish whether mindfulness may be helpful in delaying or reversing the deterioration of memory.


So, improve stress, sleep, and memory with mindfulness.


“We were surprised to find that the effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality was large and above and beyond the effect of the sleep hygiene education program, Not only did the researchers find that mindfulness could help reduce sleep problems in older adults, but that “this effect on sleep appears to carry over into reducing daytime fatigue and depression symptoms.” – David S. Black


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Brisbon, N. M., & Lachman, M. E. (2017). Dispositional Mindfulness and Memory Problems: The Role of Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality. Mindfulness, 8(2), 379–386.



There is a growing body of evidence exploring the beneficial effects of mindfulness on stress, sleep quality, and memory, though the mechanisms involved are less certain. The present study explored the roles of perceived stress and sleep quality as potential mediators between dispositional mindfulness and subjective memory problems. Data were from a Boston area subsample of the Midlife in the United States study (MIDUS-II) assessed in 2004–2006, and again approximately one year later (N=299). As expected, higher dispositional mindfulness was associated with lower perceived stress and better sleep quality. There was no direct association found between mindfulness and subjective memory problems, however, there was a significant indirect effect through perceived stress, although not with sleep quality. The present findings suggest that perceived stress may play a mediating role between dispositional mindfulness and subjective memory problems, in that those with higher mindfulness generally report experiencing less stress than those with lower mindfulness, which may be protective of memory problems in everyday life.


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