Relieve Sleep Disturbances with Mindfulness Meditation
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“meditation helps lower the heart rate by igniting the parasympathetic nervous system and encouraging slower breathing, thereby increasing the prospect of a quality night’s sleep.” – Headspace
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. The evidence is accumulating. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize what has been learned.
In today’s Research News article “The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557693/), Rusch and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of the published controlled research studies of the effects of meditation on sleep. They identified 18 published randomized controlled trials that included a total of 1654 participants with clinically significant sleep disturbances.
They report that the published research found that when mindfulness meditation was compared to other evidenced-based sleep treatment there were no significant differences in improvements in sleep quality. But when the mindfulness meditation groups were compared to other active controls that did not include evidenced-based sleep treatments, the mindfulness meditation produced significant improvements in sleep quality with moderate effect sizes.
The results of the meta-analysis of the published research suggests that mindfulness meditation is as effective as other evidenced-based sleep treatments for improving sleep in patients with clinically significant sleep disturbances. Importantly, mindfulness meditation was significantly more effective than non-sleep treatment active control conditions. Hence, mindfulness meditation appears to be a safe and effective treatment for the improvement of sleep quality that has equivalent efficacy to other treatments.
So, relieve sleep disturbances with mindfulness meditation.
“If insomnia is at the root of your sleepless nights, it may be worth trying meditation. The deep relaxation technique has been shown to increase sleep time, improve sleep quality, and make it easier to fall (and stay) asleep.” – Sleep Foundation
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Rusch, H. L., Rosario, M., Levison, L. M., Olivera, A., Livingston, W. S., Wu, T., & Gill, J. M. (2019). The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1445(1), 5–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13996
There is a growing interest in the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation for sleep disturbed populations. Our study sought to evaluate the effect of mindfulness meditation interventions on sleep quality. To assessTo assess for relative efficacy, comparator groups were restricted to specific active controls (such as evidenced-based sleep treatments) and nonspecific active controls (such as time/attention-matched interventions to control for placebo effects), which were analyzed separately. From 3303 total records, 18 trials with 1654 participants were included. We determined the strength of evidence using four domains (risk of bias, directness of outcome measures, consistency of results, and precision of results). At post-treatment and follow-up, there was low strength of evidence that mindfulness meditation interventions had no effect on sleep quality compared with specific active controls (ES 0.03 [95% CI −0.43–0.49]) and (ES −0.14 [95% CI −0.62–0.34]) respectively. Additionally, there was moderate strength of evidence that mindfulness meditation interventions significantly improved sleep quality compared with nonspecific active controls at post-intervention (ES 0.33 [95% CI 0.17–0.48]) and at follow-up (ES 0.54 [95% CI 0.24–0.84]). These preliminary findings suggest that mindfulness meditation may be effective in treating some aspects of sleep disturbance. Further research is warranted.