Adults MeditatingAround half of adults aged 55 and older have some kind of sleep disturbance that affects their daytime functioning and their moods. A new study from the University of Southern California suggests that mindfulness meditation is one way that older adults can alleviate sleep disturbances. The study found that adults who practiced mindfulness meditation reported sleeping better than adults participating in a more typical sleep intervention. Mindfulness meditation may offer a more accessible treatment for adults who struggle to sleep at night.

The researchers conducted a clinical trial to compare the effects of a mindfulness meditation program and a sleep hygiene program on sleep. Forty-nine individuals (average age: 66 years) participated in the study. Half of the individuals participated in standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs). The other half participated in a sleep hygiene education (SHE) intervention, which focused on establishing bedtime routines. The researchers measured the effects of the treatments using a self-reported questionnaire about sleep disturbances, called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

The participants in the mindfulness meditation program reported greater improvements in their sleep than those who took part in the sleep hygiene education. At the outset of the study, both the MAPs and the SHE groups had a PSQI score of 10.2. After the interventions, the average MAPs group score fell to 7.4, while the average score of the SHE group fell to only 9.1. This indicates that individuals in the MAPs group reported better sleep after the interventions than the individuals in the SHE group.

The MAPs participants also reported improvements in secondary measures of various sleep disturbances, including symptoms of insomnia and depression, in addition to fatigue severity. The two groups did not report differences in their anxiety or stress after the intervention.

Mindfulness meditation may be an effective method for mitigating sleep problems in older adults by helping individuals deal with moderate sleep disturbances. Mindfulness meditation is a highly accessible therapy and is a non-pharmacological intervention.

The study authors conclude that “Pending future replication of these findings, structured mindfulness meditation training appears to have at least some clinical usefulness to remediate moderate sleep problems and sleep-related daytime impairment in older adults.”

This research is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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