Improve Sleep and Reduce Insomnia with Mindfulness

Improve Sleep and Reduce Insomnia with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Given the absence of side effects and the positive potential benefits of mindfulness that extend beyond sleep, we encourage people with chronic insomnia, particularly those unable or unwilling to use sleep medications, to consider mindfulness training.” – Cynthia Gross


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. 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.


In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Mind-Body Therapies on Insomnia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Wang and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the effects of mind-body practices on sleep. They uncovered 49 studies employing meditation, tai chi, qigong, and yoga practices and measuring sleep.


They report that the published studies found that meditation, tai chi, qigong, and yoga practices significantly reduced insomnia and improved the quality of sleep particularly when compared to no-treatment control groups. They also report that the benefits of the mind-body practices were greater in healthy individuals than in clinical populations. These significant effects were obtained by subjective reports, while objective sleep diary and actigraph measures were not significant.


These are interesting results that suggest that mind-body practices significantly improve the participants evaluations of the quality of sleep and insomnia. This is important as individuals in modern society tend not to get sufficient sleep and adequate sleep is important to the psychological and physical well-being of the individual and their performance during the day. Engaging in these mind-body practices of meditation, tai chi, qigong, and yoga practice have been shown to have many other benefits in addition to the improvement of sleep.


So, improve sleep and reduce insomnia with mindfulness.


“Insomnia is a disorder of cognitive and physiological hyperarousal, which mindfulness addresses.” – Aya Brackett


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary


Wang, X., Li, P., Pan, C., Dai, L., Wu, Y., & Deng, Y. (2019). The Effect of Mind-Body Therapies on Insomnia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2019, 9359807. doi:10.1155/2019/9359807




Sleep plays an important role in individuals’ health. The functions of the brain, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the metabolic system are closely associated with sleep. As a prevalent sleep disorder, insomnia has been closely concerned, and it is necessary to find effective therapies. In recent years, a growing body of studies has shown that mind-body therapies (MBTs) can improve sleep quality and ameliorate insomnia severity. However, a comprehensive and overall systematic review has not been conducted. In order to examine the effect of MBTs on insomnia, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the effects of MBTs on sleep quality in healthy adults and clinical populations.


PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, and review of references were searched up to July 2018. English language studies of all designs evaluating the effect of MBTs on sleep outcomes in adults with or without diseases were examined. To calculate the SMDs and 95% CIs, we used a fixed effect model when heterogeneity was negligible and a random effect model when heterogeneity was significant.


49 studies covering 4506 participants published between 2004 and 2018 were identified. Interventions included meditation, tai chi, qigong, and yoga which lasted 4 to 24 weeks. The MBTs resulted in statistically significant improvement in sleep quality and reduction on insomnia severity but no significant effects on sleep quantity indices, which were measured by sleep diary or objective measures. We analyzed the effects of tai chi and qigong separately as two different MBTs for the first time and found that qigong had a slight advantage over tai chi in the improvement of sleep quality. Subgroup analyses revealed that the effect of MBTs on sleep quality in healthy individuals was larger than clinical populations. The effect of MBTs might be influenced by the intervention duration but not the frequency.


MBTs can be effective in treating insomnia and improving sleep quality for healthy individuals and clinical patients. More high-quality and well-controlled RCTs are needed to make a better conclusion in further study.


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