Cheap, Easy Sleep Aid? Try Mindfulness!

It’s easy to dismiss mindfulness training as just a passing fad, unless you take a closer look at the volume of research that proves it can improve lives. Studies have shown that it may be more effective than some types of traditional therapy and even common pharmaceuticals in reducing anxiety, depression, and stress.

In a paper just published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers say that their new study also shows evidence that mindfulness training can help people sleep better.

David Black, MD, of the Keck School of Medicine at USC led the new research, which recruited older adults ages 55 and up for a sleep study. Divided into two groups, participants were either assigned to take a mindfulness course concentrating on the basics of “attending to moment-to-moment experiences, thoughts and emotions from a non-judgmental perspective” or to take a class geared toward sleep hygiene education (SHE) which targets everyday environmental and behavioral factors that contribute to poor sleep. The two classes were similar in time required, attention necessary, group interaction, and expectancy of beneficial effects.

This year-long study showed that the mindfulness training overall outperformed the SHE training. SHE programs generally focus on things like having people retire at the same time each night, and avoiding certain types of light late in the day. The mindfulness group reported greater improvement in the quality of their sleep, they were less fatigued and had reduced depression compared to the SHE group. There were no statistically significant differences among the participants in stress and anxiety levels, or an inflammation marker associated with insomnia.

Previous research already suggests that mindfulness training works. This new study encourages more research to explore long-term benefits it may have for improved sleep.

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