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Trouble Sleeping? Try Meditating

In search of better sleep? Consider meditation. Through decades of scientific study, researchers have found this ancient practice improves sleep. With meditation, you can train your mind to more easily enter a relaxed state.

When your mind is relaxed, your body benefits. Studies focused on brainwaves, hormone production, cardiovascular activity, and oxygen consumption show an overwhelmingly positive relationship between meditation and sleep quality.

Meditation is Similar to Sleep

Like a good nap, meditation recharges and refreshes your mind and body.

Physiologically, there are many similarities between sleep and meditation; both boost vital hormones in your body (e.g. growth hormone and DHEA) and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Even your brainwave activity is stimulated in a similar way, increasing the waves associated with sleep and relaxation (alpha, theta, and delta), while reducing the waves associated with cognitive workload (beta).

Mentally, frequent meditation can help you enter a relaxed state more easily. It’s like building a muscle or perfecting a skill–the more you practice engaging your rest-and-digest system while you’re awake, the easier it becomes to generate that same response at night to promote sleep. Meditation reduces stress and dials down activity in your fight-or-flight system. It also enhances your body’s melatonin cycle, the primary sleep-promoting hormone, by slowing down melatonin breakdown in the liver and augmenting its production in a part of the brain called the pineal gland.

If you try meditation, give your body at least a week to adapt to your new routine.

Look for these signs to evaluate your sleep patterns:

  • Increased number of sleep cycles
  • Higher REM sleep totals
  • Lower resting heart rate

Meditation is a Natural Remedy

The US National Sleep Foundation suggests meditation as an all-natural, medication-free way to treat insomnia, noting that it reduces the use of sleeping pills. Meditation is an entirely free way to boost your body’s performance day and night.

In a year-long study of older adults with moderate sleep disturbances, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found mindfulness and meditation practices to be effective in remedying short-term sleep issues. Also, mindfulness and meditation were shown to reduce the effects of sleep-related daytime impairment (you know the ones—tired, cranky, unfocused). In these subjects, it also reduced insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, reports of fatigue, and fatigue severity.

In short, meditation is safe, effective, and free of charge—so why not give it a shot?

References

  • Corliss, J. (2015). Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep. Harvard Health Newsletter, 18. (link
  • Nagendra, Ravindra P., Nirmala Maruthai, and Bindu M. Kutty. “Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep.” Frontiers in Neurology 3 (2012): 54. (link)
  • Chatterjee, S., & Mondal, S. (2014). Effect of regular yogic training on growth hormone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate as an endocrine marker of aging. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014. (link)
  • Turakitwanakan, Wanpen, Chantana Mekseepralard, and Panaree Busarakumtragul. “Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students.” J Med Assoc Thai 96, no. Suppl 1 (2013): S90-5. (link)
  • The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). “Brain waves and meditation.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210631.htm (accessed December 20, 2019).
  • Nagendra, Ravindra P., Nirmala Maruthai, and Bindu M. Kutty. “Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep.” Frontiers in Neurology 3 (2012): 54. (link)
  • https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2012.00054/full
  • https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-meditation-can-treat-insomnia
  • Black, David S., Gillian A. O’Reilly, Richard Olmstead, Elizabeth C. Breen, and Michael R. Irwin. “Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial.” JAMA internal medicine 175, no. 4 (2015): 494-501. (link)
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