Mindful Meditation May Reduce Symptoms and Complications of Insomnia
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, or waking too early in the morning. Insomnia sufferers experience daytime sleepiness, irritability, anxiety, and an inability to concentrate as a result. Treatments such as behavior modifications, practicing good sleep habits, and therapy are preferred because they have fewer potential side effects than medication such as dependence.
Researchers from California wanted to determine if mindfulness meditation promotes sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep disturbances. The trial, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that participants using mindfulness meditation practices had improvements in insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, and fatigue.
About the Study
The randomized trial included 49 adults aged 55 or older with sleep disturbances. All adults were randomized to learning mindfulness awareness practices or undergoing sleep hygiene education.
Participants in the mindfulness awareness practices group attended 2-hour group sessions of a mindfulness awareness course on a weekly basis for 6 weeks. Mindfulness meditation involves paying purposeful attention to thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the environment during meditation. It included training in practices such as mindful sitting meditation, mindful eating, appreciation meditation, and mindful movement.
Participants in the sleep hygiene program had 2-hour group sessions on a weekly basis for 6 weeks. The program included instruction in sleep biology, characteristics of healthy and unhealthy sleep, sleep problems, stress biology, and stress reduction.
After the interventions, the participants sleep was evaluated using a questionnaire that was evaluated by a specialist. Both groups showed improvement in insomnia but participants in the mindfulness awareness group showed significant improvement in:
How Does this Affect You?
A randomized trial is considered the most reliable form of research, but how the research is done will affect its reliability. The participants and professionals knew who was receiving the experimental treatment, which can sometimes affect the outcome. It was also a small trial. A small number of participants increases the risk of the results being due to chance. Additionally there was not control group that received no treatment. Insomnia may normally pass on its own over a period of time and a control group would have shown that effect. Further studies with a greater number of participants can produce more reliable results.
Meditation has been linked to both physical and mental health benefits, including stress reduction. Since stress and a restless mind can be factors in insomnia, meditation may be helpful in reducing insomnia. Meditation is an easy process that you can develop and practice on your own or practice with professionals like a yoga or group meditation classes. If you are having persistent insomnia, talk to your doctor to help rule out any medical conditions.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Sleep Foundation
Black DS, O'Reilly GA, et al. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr 1;175(4):494-501.
Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated April 10, 2015. Accessed May 15, 2015.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
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