Wednesday, March 4, 2015


‘I can sleep anywhere but in bed,’ quipped the great Groucho Marx [pictured left] who suffered from insomnia most of his adult life. Indeed, despite his quip, Groucho had trouble sleeping anywhere, and not just in bed. He even wrote a book about beds entitled---yes, you guessed it, Beds. Now, had Groucho known about mindfulness he might not have been up half the night.

New research just published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that mindfulness can help the involuntarily sleep deprived to get their much needed sleep. The study---a randomized clinical trial using real-world interventions with real people---found that the use of a standardized mindful awareness practices (‘MAP’) intervention resulted in improvements in sleep quality at immediate post-intervention which were superior to a highly structured sleep hygiene education (‘SHE’) intervention.

In the study adults 55 and older with at least moderate problems sleeping were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups. One group received a 6-week SHE program. The other group participated in community-based MAP taught by a certified instructor. They also received sleep hygiene instruction.

The MAP group met 2 hours per week for 6 weeks. As stated in the NIH clinical trials database, those in this group were guided through in-class meditation practices and were assigned daily meditation homework. Active program components included sitting and walking somatosensory-focused meditation, audio-guided body scan meditation, and loving kindness meditation.’ The SHE group also met twice a week for 6 weeks. They met as a group so as to provide equal support, attention, time and expectation of benefit. They were taught knowledge of sleep biology, identifying characteristics of healthy and unhealthy sleep, sleep problems, and self-monitoring of sleep behaviour.

While both groups showed improvements in sleep by the end of the study, the MAP group did significantly better in reporting reductions in sleep problems and also showed significant improvements in secondary health outcomes of insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference, and fatigue severity.

The study also shows that the positive effects in sleep quality appear to carry over into reducing sleep-related daytime impairment.

Of course, as another great American comedian of yesteryear pointed out---the man was W C Fields---the best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.

Resource: Black D S, O’Reilly G A, Olmstead R, Breen E C, and Irwin M R. ‘Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial.’ JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 16, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081.

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