Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Meditation for Sleep: Paradoxes and Promises
Willoughby Britton (Clinical psychologist, research scientist, Brown University) Huffington Post
Meditation-based therapies for stress, anxiety, and depression have been making a comeback since the 1990s. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has so thoroughly infiltrated mainstream psychiatry that mindfulness-based approaches have been called the "Third Wave of Behavior Therapies." At this point, there isn't too much question about whether mindfulness meditation is helpful for distress. The main focus for researchers now is why and how it works, and through what mechanism.
Does meditation improve depression by improving sleep? Being a clinical psychologist with an interest in both depression and sleep, I have spent the last several years investigating whether meditation-related improvements might be mediated by improvements in sleep. The idea seemed obvious: Poor sleep is a symptom of depression and it is also a risk factor for developing depression or relapsing.
Meditation techniques, including mindfulness, have been found to calm the sympathetic nervous system's "fight or flight response" and decrease worry and rumination -- all the things that interfere with good sleep. But does meditation improve sleep? My first thought was "of course!" Like any good American, I went online and Googled "Meditation + Sleep" and came up with... More>>