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Sleep Better After a Little Meditation?

New research shows meditation helps insomniacs sleep better, indicating the stress-relieving strategy's usefulness in treating sleep-related issues.

If you're tossing and turning and having trouble getting a good night's sleep, you may want to consider meditation, researchers suggest. People with primary insomnia reported that they slept better after trying meditation, according to a new study to be presented June 9 at SLEEP, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Seattle.

In the study, researchers divided 11 participants aged 25 to 45 with chronic primary insomnia into two groups. One group participated in Kriya Yoga, a form of meditation that helps an individual focus internalized attention and can reduce arousal, as well as health education. The other group received information about improving health through exercise, nutrition, weight loss and stress management but did not participate in meditation.

After two months, the meditation group reported improvements in sleep quality, how long it took to get to sleep, total sleep time, total wake time, sleep efficiency and depression, the researchers reported.

Primary insomnia is believed to be a problem of hyperarousal, with high levels of arousal noted 24 hours a day, said lead study author Ramadevi Gourineni, MD, director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Evanston, Illinois. "Results of the study show that teaching deep relaxation techniques during the daytime can help improve sleep at night," Gourineni said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

About 9.4% of U.S. residents, or an estimated 20 million people, try meditating during a 12-month period, according to a 2007 study by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. People reported using meditation for various health problems, including anxiety, pain, depression, stress and insomnia.

A 2007 review of the scientific literature found some evidence that meditation is associated with health benefits, possibly by causing heart rate and breathing to slow, improving blood flow and reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system (the body's fight-or-flight mechanism).

More information

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more on meditation and health.

HealthDay News, June 9,2009