Will Meditating Help You Sleep?

You’ve likely heard that meditation — a type of mindfulness practice — can help you fall asleep more quickly, and get better rest overall. It may sound questionable, but research shows that meditation really does have tangible benefits when it comes to sleep.

One 2008 study found that combining meditation with cognitive behavioral therapy could help people with insomnia. A 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine followed 49 adults who reported having trouble sleeping. One group took a 6-week “standardized mindful awareness practices” program, which taught them meditation and mindfulness exercises. The other group took a 6-week course on sleep education.

The Harvard Health Blog reports: “Compared with the people in the sleep education group, those in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression at the end of the six sessions.” The study’s researchers concluded: “Formalized mindfulness-based interventions have clinical importance by possibly serving to remediate sleep problems among older adults in the short term.”

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

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In another 2015 study, researchers in the Netherlands introduced some participants to four different mindfulness practices: a three-minute “mindful breathing” exercise, a “loving kindness” meditation, a “body scan” exercise, and “mindfully focusing” on an everyday task. Participants were then asked to meditate twice a day for two weeks. The participants who meditated reported better sleep quality and a longer sleep duration.

Ute Hülsheger, the study’s lead author, told Greater Good magazine that consistency is key when it comes to meditation. “Mindfulness is not something that you can just train properly in one or two weeks,” she said. “If you want sustainable effects, you have to keep practicing regularly.”

The National Sleep Foundation recommends meditation for four reasons: it’s safe and medication-free, it’s easy, it can be combined with other sleep techniques, and there are multiple health benefits to a regular meditation practice (the Mayo Clinic says meditation can help decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure, and relieve tension headaches).

For a list of ways to turn your room into a sleep haven, click here. 

The foundation offers a basic meditation practice that beginners can try at home:

Start by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and then close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply, directing your attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. If your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back to your breath. You might try doing it for, say, five minutes at a time at first and gradually increasing the amount of time as you get more comfortable with the practice.

If you’re looking for guided meditations, there are plenty of free YouTube videos and podcasts out there for everyone from total beginners to advanced meditation practitioners. Headspace, a meditation app with a special sleep meditation available, is also a popular option.

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“Neuroimaging studies are beginning to support the idea that a meditation practice promotes greater wakefulness and lower sleep propensity as it progresses in intensity,” Dr. Adrian Williams, Professor of Sleep Medicine at King’s College, London, wrote in a blog post. “So in the early stages of a practice, if you meditate one to two times per week, you might experience relaxing and sleep-promoting effects (which are great in and of themselves).”

While more research is needed to clarify exactly how meditation aids sleep, it certainly seems that meditation can have tangible sleep benefits. And even if it doesn’t work for you, it’s cheap (or free) and relatively quick — so it’s probably worth giving it a try.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

Featured image:  Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock

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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.

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