How Mindfulness Meditation Helps Fight Insomnia
America may be a sleep deprived nation. According to the CDC, between 50 and 70 million Americans experience sleep disorders - meaning many of us aren’t getting enough rest to properly function throughout the day. Some people have problems going to sleep, some staying asleep, and others just wake up feeling like they had no rest at all.
Most of us don’t do well without sleep. Fatigue contributes to us performing below our best and impacts our mood, attention and memory. I constantly advise my patients about the best ways to get optimal sleep and why this is so important for helping our bodies remain strong and healthy.
Now, a new study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that there may be another way to get a good night’s rest—mindfulness meditation.
Meditation & Sleep
Mindfulness meditation helps calm your mind and focuses on breathing and self-awareness within a given moment. It’s basically a fancy way to say we all need to be more present in our lives and take things in, rather than racing through an endless series of to-do lists that may invite worry, stress—and sleepless nights.
The study included 49 middle-aged and older adults who had trouble sleeping. Half of them participated in a mindfulness awareness program that taught them meditation and relaxation techniques, while the other took a sleep education course that taught them ways to improve their sleep habits.
The result? The people who participated in the mindfulness program had less fatigue, insomnia and depression than the sleep education group. This may be because meditation creates a “relaxation response” that helps relieve stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, depression and chronic pain. Stress and lack of sleep are closely linked to many health issues, so finding a way to relax and get more sleep can improve your health.
The Best Ways to Fight Insomnia
If you’re thinking that meditation isn’t for you, all it takes is 20 minutes of focus to quiet your mind. If you can’t sleep at night, close your eyes, relax your muscles and make sure you are in a comfortable position. Focus on your breathing and say a positive word or short prayer to help your mind let go and be at ease.
Other ways to combat insomnia include making sure your bed is only used for sleep. Keep electronics such as the computer and cell phone out of your bed, especially when you are ready to rest. You also should be careful about what you eat before bed. Fatty foods, alcohol and caffeine can make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. Don’t eat right before you sleep either – indigestion may keep your body awake. It is best to follow a regular sleep regimen as much as possible and wake up and go to bed around the same time every day.
Even though we often sacrifice it to accomplish other things on our to-do lists, sleep is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you have trouble sleeping, try some of the techniques mentioned above. If your sleep disturbances persist, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment to find out what may be causing your insomnia or sleep disorder. Whatever it is, address it as soon as you can, so your body can get the rest it deserves.