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Mindfulness Meditation: A Natural Solution for Insomnia

Do you struggle with insomnia, tossing and turning at night with racing thoughts? You're not alone. Millions of people round the globe experience sleep disturbance that can leave them feeling lousy and sap their productivity. But there's hope: a small study suggests that mindfulness meditation may help alleviate insomnia and improve overall well-being.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, included 49 middle-aged and older adults who had trouble sleeping. Half completed a mindfulness awareness program that taught them meditation and other exercises designed to help them focus on "moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions." The other half completed a sleep education class that taught them ways to improve their sleep habits.

Both groups met six times, once a week for two hours. At the end of the six sessions, those in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression than those in the sleep education group.

But how does mindfulness meditation work? According to Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, mindfulness meditation is just one of many techniques that evoke the relaxation response. This response is a deep physiological shift in the body that's the opposite of the stress response. By breaking the train of everyday thoughts and evoking the relaxation response, mindfulness meditation can help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure.

So, how can you practice mindfulness meditation? Here are a few tips:

  • Choose a calming focus, such as your breath, a sound, a short prayer, a positive word, or a phrase. If you choose a sound, repeat it aloud or silently as you inhale or exhale.

  • Let go of worries or distractions. When you notice your mind has wandered, simply take a deep breath or say to yourself "thinking, thinking" and gently return your attention to your chosen focus.

  • Practice mindfulness meditation during the day, ideally for 20 minutes, to create a reflex to more easily evoke the relaxation response at night.

Dr. Benson emphasizes the importance of practicing mindfulness meditation during the day to create a reflex to more easily evoke the relaxation response at night. However, it's important to note that your daytime practice should be done sitting up or moving (as in yoga or tai chi) so as to avoid nodding off.

Mindfulness meditation is a natural, simple way to alleviate insomnia and improve overall well-being. By incorporating this practice into your daily routine, you can learn to better manage stress and enjoy a good night's sleep. So why not give it a try?

If you'd like to explore mindfulness practice further, we offer free lunchtime meditation sessions every Monday and Wednesday. We also offer mindfulness classes for those who want to dive deeper into the practice. Feel free to reach out to us to learn more.

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