Nothing can replace the blissful feeling we get after a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, tossing and turning for hours or just not able to relax enough to sleep the next day is a struggle. Sleeping pills may be helpful for the occasional restless night, but should not be used on a regular basis. It appears that the solution to this disturbing common problem may well reside in our heads. A group of scientists at Duke University suggest that only focus on your thoughts and quieting mental chatter may be enough for some much needed sleep to wake.
One of the main causes of chronic insomnia is stress. Many people just can not let go of their daily mental anguish soon the bag. A recent presentation at the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine studied the role of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on sleep disorders in a group of 151 men and women. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index was used a way of measuring the effects of an 8-week MBSR training on various aspects of sleep hygiene. Here’s what researchers at Duke Integrative Medicine discovered:
- Participants in the MBSR program showed a 26% improvement in overall quality of sleep and fewer symptoms of daytime sleepiness (28% reduction).
- Cases of waking in the middle of the night were reduced by 16% and hypnotics use decreased by 25%.
- At the start of the process, 70% of the volunteers meet the criteria for “clinically significant sleep disorders”. After the MBSR instruction, that number dropped to 50%.
According to Dr. Jeff Greeson, a psychologist at Duke, “When people become more aware, they learn life looking through a new lens. They learn how the presence of thoughts and feelings that can keep them awake at night to accept. They begin to understand that they need not respond. As a result, they experience greater emotional balance and less sleep. “(1)
A 2008 study in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease also found a statistically significant reduction of the “worry associated sleep disorders” in 19 patients with an anxiety disorder who underwent a similar 8 weeks MBSR course. (2) These results are in line with previous research conducted in recent years. (3) In fact, it seems that mindfulness meditation is especially effective in the management of the variety of insomnia that anxiety and / or concerns related matters. Another promising piece of data is that the effects of MBSR seems long. For example, a survey published at the beginning of this year showed that improvements in sleep were still present after 12 months of follow-up period. (4)
Results of a 2007 Mindfulness Education at the University of Pennsylvania (5)
There are MBSR courses are taught throughout the world. But if you’re interested in experimenting with a very simple form of mindfulness meditation, you can follow these steps:
- Find a reasonably free space that is relatively free of sensory stimulation. The dim light in a room may be helpful. Give yourself a few minutes to sit and get used to this tranquil setting.
- Sit upright in a position that you feel comfortable, but not too relaxed. The aim is to provoke a peaceful state, but not sleep.
- Close your eyes and gently begin to focus on your breathing. Focus your attention to the air that is inhaled into your nose and breathe through your mouth. Notice the feeling in the body that guides the air – the calming effect, the rise and fall of your abdomen.
- It is perfectly normal for thoughts to pop into your mind. If they do, just be aware of everything that comes to mind. Then, return your attention to your breathing pattern.
- The length of the seat meditative variable, but can be as short as 5 minutes. A typical assignment of the time is between 15-30 minutes. After time is up, let sit for a few moments and slowly adapt to your prior state.
This practice tends to be most effective when regular basis. Many doctors believe that the day begins and ends with a moment of meditation helps to set a positive tone for the times that follow. It is important to note that the traditional MBSR training usually a total of 26 hours of instruction is and is much more involved than what I described. (6) I can not promise that you get the same results without that structure. Yet I believe even less intensive and / or the streamlined forms of mindfulness can be a positive result with sleep and beyond.