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Meditation for Sleep

How mindfulness and sleep meditation can help with sleep problems

sleep meditation

How sleep problems are keeping people awake at night

It’s the middle of the night and you can’t sleep. The more you try to go back to sleep, the more you can’t. You feel like you’re the only person awake at such a lonely hour. You check the clock again. You’re going to be so tired tomorrow. Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone.

Do many people have problems sleeping?

The fact is sleep problems are far more common than you might think. Up to a third of people experience issues such as difficulty falling and staying asleep1,2. While one in ten are said to experience insomnia regularly2.

So what’s keeping everyone awake at night? There are many factors that contribute to sleep related problems, including psychological issues such as anxiety and physical conditions like pain1. Research suggests that half of the people who have experienced insomnia blame the problem on stress and worry2.

What are the effects of poor sleep?

It should come as no surprise that getting a poor night’s sleep will affect your waking hours. But it’s not just about the tiredness, lack of energy and concentration. (If that wasn’t enough.) A lack of sleep has been related to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and obesity2.

Research has also suggested that 'abnormal sleeping patterns' characterised as significantly shorter or longer sleeping periods of 7 hours was related to coronary heart disease3. And according to the National Sleep Foundation, 'there is a wealth of research indicating that people with insomnia have poorer overall health, more work absenteeism, and a higher incidence of depression'2.

How can Mindfulness-based sleep meditation help with nighttime problems?

Mindfulness-based sleep meditation has been suggested to help with many of the issues that stop us sleeping.

For example, the Stanford Medical Centre undertook a pilot study to investigate whether a combined 6 week programme of mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy could improve the sleep of 30 insomniacs.

Following the mindfulness course, the insomniacs got to sleep twice as quickly as before, taking 20 minutes as opposed to 40 minutes. At the end of the study, approximately 60% of the participants no longer qualified as insomniacs. In a follow up study, 12 months later, they found the majority of benefits had remained5,6.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School developed an effective sleep therapy that incorporated meditation as an integral component.

In a non-controlled study of 102 insomniacs, 58% reported significant improvements and 91% of those using medication either reduced their dose or eliminated its use completely. Six months later 60% of respondents said the benefits had been maintained7.

How do I get started?

So next time you’re lying awake at night, try not to worry about getting back to sleep. Instead, learning practical and everyday mindfulness techniques could help.  

Your ability to step back and observe your thoughts and emotions a little more clearly will be critical in turning a ‘reaction’ in to a ‘response’. This is exactly what you are training your mind to do when you sit and meditate.



1. National Health Service (UK). (2013).

2. National Sleep Foundation (US). (2013).

3. Sabanayagam, C. & Shankar, A. (2010). Sleep Duration and Cardiovascular Disease: Results from the National Health Interview Survey. Journal of Sleep, 33, 8. 1037-1042.

4. World Health Organization. (2013).

5. Ong, J. C., Shapiro, S. L., & Manber, R. (2008). Combining Mindfulness Meditation with Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Insomnia: A Treatment Development Study. Behavior Therapy, 39, 2. 171-182.

6. Ong, J. C., Shapiro, S. L., & Manber, R. (2009). Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia: A Naturalistic 12-Month Follow-up. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 5, 1. 30-36.

7. Jacobs, G., Benson, H. & Friedman, R. (1996). Perceived benefits in a behavioral-medicine insomnia program: a clinical report. The American Journal of Medicine, 100, 2. 212-6.

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