There’s nothing like a good nights sleep. But for many, this simple joy doesn’t come so easily. In fact, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year and an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems.
Unfortunately, sleep disturbances are most prevalent among older adults and have been found to often go untreated due to limited treatment options and a lack of community-accessible programs.
The National Sleep Foundation first and foremost recommends what they call proper “sleep hygiene.” The NSF has found that good sleep hygiene routine helps to promote healthy sleep and daytime alertness, and adherence can prevent the development of sleep problems and disorders.
A proper sleep hygiene routine entails things like maintaining a regular wake and sleep pattern seven days a week, spending an appropriate amount of time in bed, avoiding naps, limiting stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime, and more. These simple changes in daytime/bedtime routines can vastly improve sleep quality for many. But for some, these recommendations just aren’t enough.
In a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information earlier this year, researchers discovered there may be a better intervention method out there.
Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles set out to determine the efficacy of mindfulness meditation to promote sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep disturbances.
Participants in the study had a mean age of 66.3 years and a history of moderate sleep disturbances. Two parallel groups received a randomized 6-week intervention (2 hours per week) with assigned homework, receiving either a standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs) intervention or a sleep hygiene education (SHE) intervention. Then they measured between-group differences in moderate sleep disturbance, as well as insomnia symptoms, depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue.
Participants in the MAPs group showed significant improvement relative to those in the SHE group.
While many elements of SHE training are effective and still worth practicing, mindfulness meditation is now thought to be especially helpful for insomnia sufferers.
Community-accessible MAPs intervention could consequently be an effective and cost efficient way to help the millions of people who suffer from sleep disturbance each year, greatly effecting their quality of life.
Practiced regularly, mindfulness meditation allows people to calm overactive thoughts, feelings, and emotions and promote a greater sense of overall well-being. It should be no surprise that this practice creates the ideal conditions for deep, quality rest without the use of medication, alcohol or drugs. Secondary benefits includes lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, and decreased risk of disease and illness.
Like any new skill, learning to practice mindfulness meditation takes time and practice. Start small, and don’t get discouraged if it’s tougher than you anticipated. Once you start reaping the emotional and physical benefits, you’ll see it’s worth the effort.
John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career and life, please visit his main website.