Tuesday, March 6, 2018


My favourite comedian Groucho Marx was a lifelong insomniac. He tried most things to help him sleep, but apparently to little avail. ‘I can sleep anywhere but in bed,’ he once exclaimed.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicinemindfulness meditation is one of the most powerful tools for improving your sleep ... and the quality of your sleep.

In the study, 49 adults, all of whom reported having sleep troubles prior to being enrolled in the study, were split into two groups. One group was instructed to complete a mindfulness meditation program while the other simply attended sleep education classes which mostly focused on instructing the participants on various ways to improve their sleep habits. Each group participated in their respective programs for six weeks. By the end, the results showed that those who were meditating experienced less insomnia, fatigue, and depression compared to those who weren't practising mindfulness meditation.

The results confirm a 2008 study which demonstrated that wellbeing and mindfulness are positively associated with sleep quality and with a morning circadian preference. Results from a sample of 305 undergraduates revealed positive associations among measures of emotional, psychological, and social well-being, mindfulness, sleep quality and morningness (that is, the characteristic of being most active and alert during the morning).

As I see it, there are two elements of mindfulness that are helpful in dealing with insomnia—choiceless awareness and non-resistance. You can’t sleep? Don’t resist it. Stop fighting against it, for whatever we resist persists. Simply be aware—non-selectively aware—of whatever passes through your mind. Watch it. Observe it. Don’t fight against it. Give those mental movies no power, by being only barely attentive to their content. Let it pass … for it will. And let it go. Try this—and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.


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. 2015;175(4):494-501. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081

Howell A J, Digdon N L, Buro K, and Sheptycki A R. ‘Relations among mindfulness, well-being, and sleep.’ (2008) Personality and Individual Differences, 2008;45(8):773-777. doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2008.08.005