A recent article in Time.com interviews Dr. David S Black about why mindfulness may be one of the best (and easiest) ways to get better sleep. Black is a researcher at the University of Southern California and the Founding Director of the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA). In the article, Black discusses his recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The study examined the effectiveness of two sleep interventions with men and women who were experiencing poor sleep. The study participants were randomly assigned to either 6-weeks of sleep hygiene education or 6-weeks of training in mindful awareness practices. At the end of the sessions, the mindful group reported better sleep and greater improvement in things like fatigue and depression than the sleep hygiene group.
An interesting note about the mindful awareness training is that is was NOT focused on sleep. The participants learned classic mindful awareness practices like mindful meditation, sitting, eating, and movement, but did not discuss their sleep problems. That may be part of the reason why intervention worked. When we are not sleeping, it is easy to become a little stressed (obsessed) about the sleep we are not getting. Stress, anxiety, worry and frustration ABOUT sleep makes sleep even more elusive. Mindfulness can definitely help to reduce stress, and part of mindfulness is simply observing and accepting what is happening while trying not to judge it (and not getting caught up in worry). By giving up the fight to go to sleep, you may get to sleep more easily.