Surely this has happened to you before: you are so tired, you lay down to sleep and your mind won’t quiet. You run over to-do lists, worries about work or relationships, bills and the noise won’t stop. You look at the clock and an hour has passed, and you’re still tired but can’t sleep. Considering meditation just might help put you to bed.
The inability to fall asleep is very common for people, as well as insomniacs. More than 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and wakefulness, of those, 60 percent have a chronic disorder. Some disorders cannot be attributed to a medical, psychiatric or environmental cause. Short of drugging yourself with prescribed or herbal sleep aids, there are few options for sleep sufferers. Recent research has begun documenting the positive effect meditation has for insomniacs and sleep.
Subjects with primary chronic insomnia, meaning they had difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for a month or more, showed improved sleep quality and slept better after undergoing a meditation study. In the study, participants were divided into two groups, where one group meditated and the other received health education. After two months, the group that meditated reported improvements in sleep latency, total sleep time, total wake time, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, sleep quality and depression. Study author, Dr. Ramadevi Gourineni, believes insomnia to be a 24-hour problem of hyperarousal with high levels of arousal throughout the day. He believes teaching relaxation techniques during the day, as done in the study, can aid sleep at night.
Other studies have found similar results. In a combination of mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy, researchers found after a six-week program, that insomnia patients had significant improvements in sleep and associated insomnia symptoms. Another study examined multiple articles on the results of previously conducted clinical trials between mindfulness-based stress reduction and sleep disorders. The results showed that an increased mindfulness practice had positive effects on improved sleep and a decrease in sleep-interfering cognitive processes, like worry.
Many of us skimp on sleeping without realizing it’s detrimental effects. Lack of sleep can influence stress, bad habits, poor health and anxiety, thus causing us to lose even more sleep. In combination with a healthy lifestyle (exercise, drug-free), taking up meditation can offer benefits for insomniacs and those plagued with worry. It is a free natural sleep aid and proved an effective behavioral intervention in many studies. By reducing stress, anxiety and boosting your mood, better sleep is a side effect of a more wholesome you.
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