Scientists Discover You May Already Have a Key to Sleeping Well
Back in the 1960’s, it seemed everyone was a little off their rocker. The “peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll” mentality led to some pretty crazy ideas. So, when The Beatles took an interest in meditation, doctors wrote it off as just a fad.
In the 1980’s, the New Age movement gained ground, and meditation won new fans. But most doctors still looked at it as a kooky Eastern idea. After all, there was nothing scientific about meditation.
Or so the establishment thought.
These days, mindfulness meditation is beginning to gain respect. Studies show it has multiple health benefits. And there’s new information breaking all the time.
For example, a team at the University of Wisconsin (UW) found meditation can have a surprising effect on stress.
Stress releases hormones that cause systemic irritation, which is linked to many of the signs of aging. The UW doctors recently discovered that mindfulness meditation eases the systemic irritation stress triggers.1
More recently, a Utah study showed that adults who live mindfully – that is, who focus on “the now” – have more stable emotions and feel greater control over their mood. This stability appeared to carry over into better sleep as well.2
Now, a brand-new study confirms what the Utah team suspected…
Mindfulness training appears to improve sleep. Even for mature adults, a group especially prone to sleep problems.
Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) tested two sleep-improvement programs. The first was a standard sleep education program. The second involved mindfulness training.
The USC doctors split 49 volunteers with an average age of 66 into two similar groups.
For six weeks, each group spent two hours per week in classes to learn their program. They also received weekly “homework” assignments.
After 6 weeks, both groups showed improvements in sleep, mood, and fatigue. But the mindfulness group improved more than twice as much as the education group.3
Mindfulness still has a slightly “kooky” reputation in some quarters. But there’s really nothing strange about it. It’s mostly about relaxing your mind… or “being in the moment.”
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. You can sit on the floor or in a chair. Use a cushion on the floor, if you’d like. If you sit in a chair, don’t choose one that’s over-stuffed. Try to hold a healthy posture, with your back straight.
Many people like to place their hands just above their knees. You can put them palm up or down… whichever is more comfortable. Hollywood may picture meditation as sitting in a pretzel position, but it’s not really necessary.
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Don’t think about it as much as notice it. If thoughts come up, just push them aside and start again.
Five minutes of mindfulness meditation may be all you can handle a first. But as you practice, try to work yourself up to a session of about 20 minutes per day.
It’s also not “cheating” to use nutritional supplements to encourage better sleep. Lemon balm, valerian, and melatonin are all good choices.
Yours in continued good health,
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
1 Rosenkranz, M.A., et al, “A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation,” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Jan 2013; 27: 174-184.
2 “U Study Connects Traits of Mindfulness to Emotional Well-Being,” University of Utah. Mar 7, 2013.
3 Black, D.S., 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. Feb 16, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081.