Do you go to bed and find that your overactive mind will not shut down? As a result you toss and turn, are up frequently and do not get a good night’s sleep. You wake up fatigued and wish that you could back to bed.This is the story of a classic insomniac. Could this also be your story? What do you need to do to get a good night’s sleep. I suggest that you try meditation.
This is a technique that we have been teaching for years with amazing results. Meditation is a way to evoke the relaxation response, a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.
Dr. Benson directed a study of 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. Compared with the people in the sleep education group, those in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression at the end of the six sessions.
The findings came as no surprise to Dr. Benson “Mindfulness meditation is just one of a smorgasbord of techniques that evoke the relaxation response,” says Dr. Benson.
The relaxation response, a term he coined in the 1970s, is a deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response. The relaxation response can help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure. For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress, says Dr. Benson.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. It helps you break the train of your everyday thoughts to evoke the relaxation response, using whatever technique feels right to you.
We have been teaching mindfulness meditation for years and a description of the technique we use is in our book Live Longer, Live Healthier.