The official site of the sleep-deprived

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Meditation and Insomnia

Using meditation and yoga to relax during the daytime helps you sleep better at night, showed a study directed by Ramadevi Gourineni, MD, director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Evanston, Illinois (published in ScienceDaily in June 2009). According to Dr. Gourineni, if you suffer from insomnia it’s likely you are in a state of hyperarousal 24/7. 

The study divided participants into two groups. One group practiced Kriya Yoga, which uses meditation to focus attention; the control group didn’t. At the end of the two-month-long trial, the patients who practiced yoga/meditation experienced improved sleep quality and sleep time.

The results of Dr. Gourineni’s study didn’t surprise me, but they did remind me to spend more time relaxing during the daytime. Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do yoga and meditate regularly I sleep better. When I don’t, I lie awake for hours worrying about things I can’t or won’t change, rehashing the day’s most meaningless and miniscule details, and sometimes even gaining what seem to be genuine insights.

One of reasons people meditate is to stop the squirrelly chatter that runs rampant through our minds most of the day. For those of us who suffer from sleep dysfunction, the chatter doesn’t stop when we go to bed. A daily dose of meditation trains us, over time, to turn off the chatter, or at least turn it down.

Here’s another thing I’ve noticed about meditation and sleep: When meditating, I frequently recall my dreams, even those that occurred long ago. Perhaps that’s because during meditation our brainwave frequencies slow from the usual 13–30 cycles per second (when we’re awake and active) to 8–13 cps, closer to the dream state’s 5–8 cps.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do those of you who meditate and/or do yoga find it helps you sleep better? Is it more effective than other forms of relaxation? We invite you to share your thoughts.


Bruce Oglesby said...

I'd say generally I sleep better but I tend to get up either early or very early, 3:15 sometimes, and just practice meditation more. I think the benefits go well beyond sleeps as my cohort Andrea said in this article:

Skye Alexander said...

Thanks for writing, Bruce. I agree, the benefits of meditation are many, from relaxation to physical and emotional healing, breaking addictions, and reducing crime. I'm in the process of writing a book about meditation that addresses meditation's uses in all these areas and more. It's scheduled for publication in January 2011, by Fair Winds Press (we don't have a finished title yet, though).

I appreciate your friend Andrea's comments, too, and wish her luck with her writing career.