Anyone who has experienced a blaring alarm clock after a night of minimal or restless sleep would agree- sleep is a deep-rooted bodily need, especially if you are trying to have a happy and productive day. Aside from feeling good, sleep also does a body good! Studies have shown that adequate sleep (generally defined as 7-8 hours for adults) reduces the overall risk of mortality from diseases like cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Unfortunately, a growing number of people suffer from insomnia, and it has actually been shown to affect people even more as they age. While there are many prescription medication options, they are not without significant side effects including daytime sleepiness and dependence. For this reason, efforts have been made in finding non-pharmacologic options for improvement in sleep.
In this study, researchers compare two non-pharmacological interventions, a Mindfulness Awareness course, and a Sleep Hygiene course. Subjects were randomized and enrolled in one of the two six-week interventions, each receiving two hours of training/education per week. Those in the Mindfulness Awareness group were taught the basic concept of mindfulness (paying attention to moment-by-moment experiences and thoughts without attachment or judgment) and had opportunities to practice various forms of mindfulness meditation. The Sleep Hygiene course participants learned about sleep biology, establishing bedtime routines, as well as stress reduction and relaxation methods.
At the end of the study, subjects answered questions about their sleep and daytime fatigue using previously validated sleep and insomnia scoring systems. Subjects who had taken the Mindfulness Awareness course were found to have significant improvement in not only sleep disturbance but also in daytime fatigue and other established insomnia symptoms.
The study did have some limitations; most subjects were over the age of 60 and the majority were female, long term follow-up was also not obtained. Despite these limitations, mindfulness and meditation are generally not known to have any adverse side effects- so introducing these practices into your routine should certainly be a consideration if sleep is an issue! Most communities offer affordable courses on mindfulness meditation and many free educational programs can be found on the web as well.
Learning and practicing mindfulness meditation techniques can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce daytime fatigue.