Mindfulness meditation has been shown to have many beneficial effects on health and wellbeing, and studies reveal that sleep disturbance, or insomnia, is another area in which a mindfulness-based approach seems particularly effective.
Sleep disturbance is a common problem, with around 10–15% of the adult population suffering from insomnia and many more reporting symptoms for a few nights a week or more during the past year.
Respond or react?
Mindfulness-based treatment for insomnia reduces unwanted wakefulness at night and manages the emotional reactions to sleep disturbance and daytime fatigue more effectively. Participants are taught to respond to sleep disturbance with mindfulness skills rather than react, habitually, with increasing effort.
Individuals who suffer from chronic insomnia will often describe their condition as a ‘vicious cycle’ with increasing effort and desire put into trying to regain sleep. Ong and Sholtes
The principles and practices of mindfulness meditation allow for sleep to unfold rather than increasing effort to clear the mind or trying harder to make sleep happen. This approach is likely to be be more acceptable to those who are looking for non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia.
Preliminary studies have yielded promising results. In a pilot study involving 30 participants, half experienced a 50% or greater reduction in total wake time and all but two scored below the cutoff for clinically significant insomnia.
Follow-up data revealed that 61% of participants had no relapse of insomnia during the 12 months following treatment, supporting the long-term benefits of this treatment.
A mindfulness-based approach to the treatment of insomnia by Jason Ong and David Sholtes. Published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, November 2010.