Meditation for a Good Night’s Sleep
February 23, 2015 3:06 pm February 23, 2015 3:06 pm
Do you have chronic sleep problems? You may be able to significantly improve your ability to get a restful night of sleep by practicing a popular form of meditation, a rigorous new study shows.
The findings may be particularly relevant to Americans older than 55, about half of whom have some form of sleep trouble. The research, a clinical trial published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, recruited about 50 older adults with moderate sleep problems and assigned them to follow one of two programs.
In one group, the adults learned behaviors that could help them develop good sleep hygiene, like establishing a regular bedtime routine and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed. The other group underwent a six-week program on mindfulness meditation — the nonjudgmental awareness of the thoughts and feelings drifting through one’s mind — led by a certified teacher.
At the end of the yearlong study, the people who learned the mindfulness approach had greater improvements in sleep quality and fewer symptoms of insomnia, depression and fatigue than those who received standard care.
The lead author of the study, David S. Black, said mindfulness meditation probably helped settle the brain’s arousal systems. And unlike widely used sleep drugs, it does not have potentially severe side effects, said Dr. Black, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California.
“Given the many health concerns pertaining to sleep aid medication use in older adults,” he added, “mindfulness meditation appears to be a safe and sensible health promoting practice to improve sleep quality.”
In recent years, dozens of apps have sprung up promising to train users in mindfulness techniques and other forms of meditation. But Dr. Black noted that his study looked at a structured mindfulness course led by a skilled instructor.
“As compared to attempting mindfulness practice for the first time on your own,” he said, “you are likely to gain the most benefit from a standardized course with an experienced teacher.”
A version of this article appears in print on 02/24/2015, on page D4 of the NewYorkTimes edition with the headline: Aging: Meditate on Good Night Sleep.
The Power of Gratitude course can also help you get a good night’s sleep.